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LETTERS FROM SYRIAlrj:'*} 



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BAGHDAD SKETCHES 
LLEYS OF THE ASSASSINS 
TH SOUTHERN GATES OF ARABIA 
SEEN IN THE HADHRAMATJT 
A WINTER IN ARABIA 



F RE Y A 



LETTERS 
FROM SYRIA 




JOHN MURRAY 
ALBEMARLE STREET, LONDON, W. 



--- > -: First Edition 



Printed in Great Britain by 
Wyman & Sons, Ltd., London, Fdkenham and Reading* 



CONTENTS 



PACE 



i. FROM VENICE TO BEIRUT. LETTERS 112 j 

In the first of these letters Freya Stark has left her home 
at Asolo and has set out from Venice on a small cargo vessel 
for her first journey east of Italy and her first contact with 
the Near East. The s.s. Abbazia takes her as far as 
Rhodes, where she spends a few days before proceeding on 
s.s Diana to Beirut, The whole passage occupies three 
weeks. In the course of it she describes her first impressions 
of many famous places. 

2. LEARNING ARABIC AT BRUMANA. LETTERS 13 63 23 

The writer of these letters is now to spend three cold 
winter months at Brumana, a Syrian village on a slope of 
the Lebanon high above Beirut. She went with a recom- 
mendation from the well-known orientalist Sir Thomas Arnold, 
and her object in settling there was to gain a command of 
fiuent Arabic. She had already received a grounding in this 
difficult tongue, first from an old Franciscan missionary friar 
at San Remo, then in 1926 from an Egyptian teacher in 
London, and finally in 1327 at the School of Oriental Studies. 

3. FIRST VISIT TO DAMASCUS. LETTERS 6489 87 

Telling of a month at Damascus, where the writer stayed 
in a native household in the Moslem quarter, and was much 
hampered by ill-health due to insanitary conditions. After 
three weeks' convalescence in Brwnana she is joined by her 
friend Venetia Buddicom, whose acquaintance the reader 
has already made in the course of this correspondence. 



DAMASCUS AND THENCE TO 
LETTERS go 1 08 127 

friends go by car to Baalbek and Damascus. 
Their next expedition is an unconventional and adventurous 
one, seeing that the Druse revolt of August, 1925, had 
continued until March, 1927, and that the French rulers of 
Syria were far from welcoming intruders. They are mounted 
on donkeys and with a Druse guide called Najm make a 
leisurely progress towards Palestine. At the end of eleven 
days they are at Bosra. There they dismiss their guide and 
take a car for Jericho and Jerusalem. 

5. POSTSCRIPTS FROM ASOLO AND BRUMANA. 

LETTERS 109 in i#9 

These letters re-introduce some persons and places already 
familiar to the reader, who will perhaps discern in the last 
sentence of all a link with the opening chapter of ' Baghdad 
Sketches.' * 



VI 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

(From photographs by Miss Venetia Buddicom, except Frontispiece and 
those otherwise marked) 



Freya Stark Frontispiece 



at end of book 

1. Lindos, Rhodes 

[Marine Photo Service, Colchester} 

2. Coastal hills of Syria* 1 

3. Asphodels over Syrian ruins* 

4. Flocks of the Beduin* 

4. Hawking in Syrian cornfields* 

5. Cutting the corn* 

6. Roman ruins at Baalbek 

7. Great Mosque, Damascus 

[Photo. P. & 0.] 

8. In a Damascus bazaar* 

9. A cobbler at Damascus* 

10. Escort first seen 

1 1 . Freya Stark, Najm and 'Arif 

1 2. Groups at Deir All 

13. Stone doors at Burdk 

14. Freya Stark and 'Arifby the well at Redeme 

14. Inside the guest room at Redeme 

vii 



15. Beduin girl dancing near Shahba 

15. Coffeepots* 

1 6* School children at Redeme 

17. Miss Buddicom and French officers at Shahba* 
18*. Circular temple at Kanawat 

1 8. Little theatre in the ravine 
ig. Ruins at Kanawat 

20. Ruins $t Kanawat 

20. Temple ruins below Sir 

2 1 . The castle guard at Bosra 

21. Children in gateway at *Atyl 

22. Mut'ib and his grandchildren at Resas 

22. Making butter at Resas 

23. MufiVs tent at Resas 

23. Ruined mosque and minaret at Salhad 

24. Bosra 

* From photographs by the author^ 



Sketch map drawn by H. W. Hawes xi 



Vlll 



FOREWORD 

THESE letters, written on my first coming to Asia, were 
neatly and dreamlessly at rest in Sir John Murray's cup- 
board when, between one blitz and another, the Pub- 
lisher's eye fell upon them. They were asked for and 
obtained: the dislocation of war between me and the 
printer made the sending 6f proofs impracticable: Sir 
Sydney Cockerell has most kindly edited them and seen 
them through the Press. 

When they appear, they will be scarcely more known 
to me than to their readers, for fourteen years have gone 
by since they were written. They describe that "first 
fine careless rapture," the opening of the East to eyes 
that had never left Europe. 

This East has now become part of the texture of life, 
familiar and intimate. Like the face of an old love, it has 
, lost the quality of surprise which first enchanted, which 
is there no doubt, if the spirit were not too sleepy to be 
aware of it. We take for granted the infinite variety 
that we expect. 

Yet the freshness trembles beneath the surface of Every- 
day, a joy perpetual to all who catch its opal lights beneath 
the dust of habit. I now know that the camel train will 
come padding under loads of straw round some sharp 
corner of Lebanon or Anti-Lebanon asphalted and 
crowded with lorries of our Yeomanry from home yet 
the habitual sight has not lost its magic; the years have 
added to it a tenderness, a blossoming of all the times when 
my own pilgrim life has hailed the caravan that bobs 
noiseless here and there against the burnt Asiatic back- 
ground. So it is, I think, with most things. Familiarity 
rather than novelty is what touches our hearts the 

ix 



FOREWORD 

revelation of a harmony between ourselves and outward 
things. Possibly the joy of discovery is not that of discovery 
at all in the sense of strangeness ; but rather the sudden 
knowledge that we are at home in a new horizon, whether 
it be outward or inward, enfranchised in a land in which 
we are expected and which our heart or brain, experienced 
but forgetful traveller, recognizes with joy. 

BAGHDAD. F. S. 



LETTERS FROM SYRIA 



i. FROM VENICE TO BEIRUT. LETTERS 112 

In the first of these letters Freya Stark has left her home 
at Asolo and has set outfwm Venice on a small cargo vessel 
for her first journey east of Italy and her first contact with 
the Near East. The s.s. Abbazia takes her as far as 
Rhodes, where she spends a few days before proceeding on 
s.s Diana to Beirut. The whole passage occupies three 
weeks. In the course of it she describes her first impressions 
of many famous places. 

i. To her Mother. 

s.s. Abbazia, FIUME. 19.11.27. 
DEAREST B., 

All well so far and a very comfy night. They have 
changed my cabin, as I thought the anchor was falling on 
my head through the deck. 

Only five other passengers. Young Irish couple, talk in 
whispers only to themselves: young Austrian steamship 
agent going to Egypt; elderly Turinese business man, 
attitude entirely commercial; and a German- American 
with ari impressive domed head. 

I sit between the Chief Engineer and the Captain, who 
must have some Turk in him; he is a jovial old boy, with 
black lips and an immense stomach. 

This town has nothing worth seeing but its frontier 
just a canal right through it, very disagreeable to live near 
in war time. 

Weather rainy, sirocco, and the sea looks horrid, full 
of small angry waves. 

I hope for news at Brindisi. 

Ever so much love to both dear people. 

FREYA. 



2 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

2. To Miss Buddicom in India. 

s.s. Abbazia, NEARING BRINDISI. 23.11.27. 
DEAREST VENETIA, 

You will just be arriving, and here am I already 
twenty-four hours belated by weather, and looking forward 
to a fearful tossing to-night between Brindisi and Corinth. 
I had no idea of all the incidents boats are subject to. First 
a mild steady rain in Fiume made it impossible to load our 
cargo of sugar for Egypt. It cleared at Spalato, where we 
spent a charming day, eating the food of the country and 
visiting the market, and admiring Diocletian's taste in 
country houses. I think he and Herbert Olivier would 
have understood each other. What you want in a ruin is 
that it should give a feeling of magnificence passed away 
and of the lapse of time and that is why it is better without 
too much restoration. The odd columns and arcades of 
Diocletian are let in among the fronts and backs of Spalato 
houses, until you come to the only clear space, where the 
Mausoleum stands, very simple and grand, with a court of 
broken pillars round it. The same at Bari. Two marvel- 
lous old churches ; you could not say whether Romanesque 
or Byzantine, but huge and empty and fallen one feels on 
sadder days. The smaller windows still have the carved 
stone instead of glass, and a marble elephant is leaning 
happily out of one of the walls to support a Norman arch 
on his back. I wish you had been there, if only to see the 
colour of the whitewashed piazza in the twilight. 

We are now running under the lee of the shore and shall 
be all right till we cross from Brindisi into the open. After 
that, I hear a sailor say: "They will dedicate all their 
dollars to the Madonna." 

It was bad enough before Bari; and last night, when the 
hawser which was to tow us off the quay into the middle of 
the harbour broke and could not be fastened to the buoy 
again because of the rough sea (and Bari has no tug), we 
all felt much relieved. It was pleasant to hear the wind 
in the rigging and us safe in port. 

Besides our cargo of cement and sugar, our decks are 
crammed with barrels of oil, matches, figs, almonds, and 



IN SIGHT OF CORFU 3 

soap, which are soused every few minutes till I expect the 
soap to lather through the chinks. 

I have a good book : The Medieval Conquest of Greece, by 
Sir R. Rodd. But I scarce want to read. It is so wonderful 
to be away, really away; a new land opening out every 
morning. Pleasant to wander in strange places and come 
back to one's boat all lighted up and warm and feeling very 
like a home. 

I had a thrilling sight as we left Spalato at night. Just 
before getting into my bunk I put my head through the 
porthole, expecting solitude and niglit outside; and lo and 
behold, there was a boat lashed on below a red boat with 
two boys smoking inside it and surrounded by a lather of 
foam as we carried it along. It was brilliantly lit by a 
lamp from our deck and shone out in the general blackness ; 
and presently a man climbed down our side and they 
unwound the thick hawser and drifted away; they gave a 
call and were away in the night, with I can't tell you what 
flavour of adventure and mystery. It was just the pilot 
being dropped. 

Here is Brindisi. 

My dear love, FREYA. 

3. To her Father in Canada. 

s.s. Abbazia., IN SIGHT OF CORFU. 24.11.27. 

DEAREST PIPS, 

Can you imagine what a moment it was this morning 
when, expecting nothing but open sea, I stepped out on 
deck, and there was Corfu with all its mountains, and 
behind it the ranges of Epirus with a dark-blue sea in front, 
and gulls with the sun on their backs circling round us* 
And this is Greece, too. I suppose no other country would 
give one quite that sense of joy and wonder. It looks wild 
enough. A few villages here and there where the hills 
slope more gently, but mostly great ridges, barren of every- 
thing except the travelling shadows. 

We are going very slowly nine miles an hour; and there 
is a little swell which keeps me happiest in my deck chair. 
The stewardess compliments me on my staunchness in 



4 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

taking a bath every day. The truth is, I should be sad to 
have to miss one of these delicious meals ; I have not eaten 
so much for years, and so far the luck has been with us for 
we have been dining in port or just after starting, before 
the rolling begins. 

We kept a crowd of people waiting at Brindisi, which is 
a poor sort of place with straight streets, though rather 
pleasant because of the whitewash or coloured houses, 
which fade agreeably. We had nothing to load there 
except a Marconi signal for Turkey, now choking up our 
deck. And lucky we are it isn't pigs, for the Captain was 
telling us last night how he brought three deckloads of 
animals out of the Black Sea and how disgusted his pas- 
sengers were. 

Later. 

We are now among islands in the Ionian Sea. Is not 
the very name an enchantment? The sea is quiet, the 
twilight falling. I asked for the name of an island on the 
right. "Ithaca," says the Captain, as if the name were 
mere geography. And there it is, with a hill rising sheer, 
and a little sandy cove and village above, cypresses and 
olives, bare and poor; and Penelope no doubt in the square 
villa with the well-kept garden. Islands on islands there 
are, melting away into the night. They are all incredibly 
steep, many with great cliffs, and wild land at the back, 
bare ranges. One can see the early adventurers, slipping 
on from one inlet to the next, as we would turn the corners 
of a road, in this landlocked sea. 

UNDER SALAMIS. SSTH Nov. 

After Corinth the land sinks down and a long straight 
cut is made through tufa, like a slice out of a cake, five 
miles between sloping walls. We got up at three to see it, 
only to hear that the current was running too fast and we 
must wait for daybreak; and so we saw sunrise, rather 
pale, over Corinth. Our American's comment as we 
crept between those sheer walls was rather nice: "I guess 
I can give a tip to the Greek government to put advertise- 
ments all along this canal" 

We are just under a precipitous ridge of Salamis where 



THE ISLES OF GREECE 5 

I have invented Xerxes' seat, and the inaccurate informa- 
tion has been taken solemnly by all the Germans standing 
round. 

Your FREYA. 

4. To her Father. 

s.s. Abbazia. 126.11.27. 
DEAREST PIPS, 

We lost the Cyclades in the darkness of the night, 
and these are the Sporades all round us now. And I am 
thinking of shedding my leather waistcoat in this good, 
warm sun. There is a bit of a roll, but nothing vicious, 
merely life and jollity ; and the sea is deep blue, like nothing 
I have ever seen the sort of blue that black would turn to 
if it could. The boat is picking up stranger-looking 
passengers at every port now : florid gentlemen who try to 
suppress their curls with brilliantine, and go in for lovely 
patterns in socks and ties. 

I am wishing all day long that you were with me. 
Yesterday on the Acropolis, if only to see the colour of that 
marble. It used to be painted a deep ochre, and now 
there is still a tawny shadow in the sheltered places, and 
the rest just the colour of sunlight. There is a little Ionic 
temple so delicate, it might be lace-work in stone. But oh, 
the beautiful Doric! 

Greek history came back to me in bits as the old names 
were repeated; Phalerum where the old walls went, and 
Hymettus and the way to Marathon beyond. There is 
still the mark of the old footsteps on the way up to sacrifice. 
The whole place is beautifully left ajone: no labels, no 
railings : if you become absent-minded in admiration, you 
can easily step backwards from the Acropolis into space. 
We had only three hours enough to know that one must 
see it again. Some day at sunset or sunrise, or if one could 
climb up with the moon. . 

I had no idea of what a large town Athens is; over a 
million inhabitants, and full of contrasts: wide asphalt 
roads jerking one off into knobbly side streets at a risk of 
life. Piraeus is a big harbour full of amusement. The 



6 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

people swarmed up our side as soon as they could, yelling 
and quarrelling with all the noisiness, cheatsomeness and 
general badness that the modern Greek is sometimes 
credited with. We finally got a decent little man with a 
sad decayed gentility about him to save us from the other 
robbers. 

Your FREYA. 



5. To her Mother. 

RHODES. 27.11.37. 

DARLING B., 

My landing in Rhodes last night was full of emotions. 
First of all, it appeared that a visa was necessary, and they 
would not let me think of landing till the letter to the 
Governor flattened them out. Then a swarm of Greek 
villains clambered up, yelling for luggage and passengers, 
out of a dark sea in which lots of shallow boats were 
squabbling violently. I was the only passenger descending, 
but my kind Irish helped me out ; the Abbazia staff kept all 
except one ^brigand at bay, and my luggage joggled down 
the gangway. We followed, with pushing and shouting 
around us, till we got clear into the darkness, sliding under 
the lantern of the round fort towards the lights of the town. 

My Irish left me to try and find the post office before 
joining me at dinner. I followed my man in the dark over 
rough ground to a solitary little house on a promontory 
where the Customs and Sanita live in isolation. I stumbled 
up to it and found one Neapolitan and a guard of swarthy 
men in khaki with astrakhan on their heads. They meant 
to look at all I had. When my big box was opened and 
they had got their fingers well among everything, the light 
went out. "This is the habit of the country," thought I, 
and wondered what they were abstracting ; no one seemed 
in a hurry to light again. Finally a candle came, and was 
again nearly put out by the Italian, who could not get his 
cigar to burn well. I got annoyed, especially as I thought 
he was going to put his fingers on my revolver. After that 
things went better, and I left with no further examinations. 

The hotel is sumptuous, but also pleasant, though 



RHODES 7 

hideous from outside. My room has bathroom, and white 
walls with friezes of swallows and wistaria to match the 
cretonnes and cushions. I look from it across the sea to 
the hills of Anatolia, ranges and ranges. I thought the 
hotel looked empty, but the manager said: "No. There 
were ten people yesterday." 

I have now sent my letter to the Governor with a card, 
and am told that his A.D.C. is coming at seven this evening. 

More later. 

Your own FREYA. 

6. To her Father. 

RHODES. 29.11.27. 

DEAREST PIPS, 

You have no idea of anything like this island. I 
came back quite stunned after my first wandering through 
its streets ; I felt I must get inside my ordinary bedroom to 
make myself at home again in the everyday world. 

Think of an armed town complete in its walls and 
towers, with battlemented bastions at intervals, and gates 
that let you in by zigzag ways under the arrow slits and 
catapult emplacements. Right through the middle runs 
the Knights' way with all its palaces, of France, England, 
Italy, Spain, Provence. They are practically intact, or 
carefully restored, and there is nothing else near to spoil 
them : so that, looking up the hill from the bottom of the 
street, you can see it just as it used to be, with a Turkish 
woman or two in white, and only the Knights themselves 
wanting in the picture. 

The walls are built to a great width round the city, and 
filled in with earth, so that you can walk along a causeway 
about thirty feet broad and look over all the roofs and 
minarets inside. A little narrow way, with parapet and 
arrow slits, and flanked with towers, runs along the outside, 
two-thirds way up the face of the outer wall; and then 
there is the ditch, sixty feet broad at least, and raked by the 
Knights' stone cannon balls from subterranean vaults 
below the ramparts, and built up on the landward side 
with another steep wall. Each "language" had a bit of 



8 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

fortification to defend. The Italian piece, which gets its 
name from one of the Del Carrettos, is the most heavily 
defended of all, with a long island of solid earthworks 
between two ditches beyond the actual walls. There used 
to be sorties from outlets in the vaults, and fighting in the 
fosse. 

The great siege was in the sixteenth century, when the 
Knights held firm against terrific odds and finally sur- 
rendered on honourable terms to Soliman. The bullet 
holes still spatter pieces of the wall as thick as rain. When 
the end was coming, and no hope of help from Christians 
in Europe, one of the Knights came secretly to terms with 
the enemy; it was discovered just in time, and they hung 
his head on the outside of the wall for Soliman to see. 
They had a clever Italian engineer Martinengo; he 
invented the first rudimentary field telephone, collecting 
the sound in shallow hide receptacles which he used to let 
down by a long string so as to hear where the enemy were 
digging mines. In the terms of surrender Soliman asked 
to have him handed over as he had given him so much 
trouble ; but the Knights said that he had died during the 
siege and smuggled him away. 

Outside the fortifications, and making a belt of solitude 
round them, are Turkish and Jewish graveyards, long 
grasses growing among neglected tombs. The little up- 
right slabs of stone or marble have the man's fez or turban 
carved like a knob on the top of them; narcissus and 
bunches of grey cactus grow there, and the old city is cut 
away completely from its new suburbs. 

Inside it, Jews and Greeks and* Turks live in three 
separate quarters, with narrow streets like Liguria, only 
brighter because of the universal use of whitewash and the 
charming habit of paving their courts and living-rooms 
with bright round pebbles, black and white and a few 
red, laid together in patterns and kept brilliantly clean. 
Most _of the houses have just this court and a small kitchen, 
and then one big living-room where they eat and sleep and 
entertain their friends. The Knights' houses had two or 
more stories, but otherwise it is unnatural here and does 
not belong to the country. The Turkish women go about 
veiled in black or white; the Jewish wear round velvet 



RHODES 9 

caps, the shape of a tambourine and very unbecoming; 
and they are descended from the exiled Jews of Spain and 
still speak Spanish among themselves. 

The most beautiful building of all is the Hospital of the 
Knights, which they have arranged with great taste as a 
museum and it is filled with a rich collection of primitive 
Greek potteries. The Director took me over, explaining, 
and the whole life of those early traffickers seemed to rise 
out of their old red and yellow wares. How old is this 
Mediterranean Sea! It made the great building itself 
seem of our own time. You climb up to the hall from a 
massive courtyard with a marble lion in the middle of it 
and heavy stone portico round; the stairs are without a 
parapet, like all the old stairways in Rhodes, and they lead 
you to a great raftered room where the patients were cared 
for. In the far wall is a little niche of a chapel with fluted 
pillars, and there are little rooms where the more important 
pilgrims could be privately attended to. And one wanders 
out into a little cloistered garden with mosaics and tombs 
and bits of marble gods lying among the bignonias and 
geraniums. 

Your FREYA. 

7. To her Mother. 

RHODES. 30.11.27. 

DARLING B. ; , 

The Governor received me very charmingly and 
talked for three-quarters of an hour, chiefly about Rhodes 
and his work here, but also about Turin and Dronero 
which he knew well. It seems that his sister married 
Giolitti's son! 

My entrance missed fire a little: when the two flaps of 
the door were to be thrown open to let me in, one of them 
stuck, and there were His Excellency and I separated by a 
crouching menial wr^o could not get the thing to work. 
We both waited, but it was no good. I was finally asked 
to deign to accept only half a door, which is I believe 
"la Petite Entrte" but quite sufficient for my figure. 

It must be fun to be practically king of an island manage- 



IO LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

able in size with a population ready to be thankful for any 
decent government. His Excellency told me that he 
enjoyed it. He is planning to make it a centre for all 
Italians of the Levant, and to found a University, of which 
he shewed me the plan. He does most things himself here, 
and his taste is fortunately good. The new Government 
House is a delightful building, in red and yellow Lindos 
stone which will soon look as if it had always been standing 
here; and he shewed me over the reception and dining- 
rooms, for which he had himself planned the decoration. 
He says he has very little trouble with his people, and that 
of all of them the Turks are the pleasantest to deal with, 
obedient, honest and stupid (the three subject virtues). 
Rather a nice story about them : he wanted a piece of land, 
but the Turkish owner would not sell because it had been 
in his family for four hundred years, ever since the con- 
quest. "But," said he, "the Italian Government has 
always treated us well. Why does it not take the land? 
We will make no objection." 

After my interview, I was handed over to Signor Benetti, 
the A.D.G., to be looked after and provided with all I can 
possibly desire, which is being done in the most complete 
manner. Every morning I am asked what can be done 
for my amusement. There is an English Air Force couple 
here, regular service people, on their honeymoon, and very- 
pleasant in a conventional way. Benetti invited us all to 
motor half across the island to Lindos, which is its second 
town. It was a long day 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. over every 
description of country and roads. I rather believe that 
what I enjoyed most was dashing across the island and all 
its ridges on a road which is not yet made, but only planned 
out, with all its angles and gradients still in their crudest 
stages : it had all the delights of a switchback with the 
^nost amazing landscape to look at between the gasps. It 
was an old dream of mine, which I now see was only a 
premonition; I find myself in a car on the brow of a long 
hill, and the road has suddenly turned to a mule track and 
goes bang down at an acute angle, and I can't stop. I 
never come to any harm, and neither did we. The only 
difference was that here we had an excellent chauffeur 
instead of myself at the wheel, and that is why I am alive 



RHODES II 

to write. Mr, D. turned round to his wife at intervals. 
"See that corner coming, my dear?" he said. But Mrs. 
D. was very pale, and said nothing in a heroic way. 

It was lovely country, and a windy day with shadows. 
As Rhodes is small, it seems to have made up its mind to 
condense all sorts of landscape in a narrow space. We 
ran through dry poor lands, thin olives here and there and 
neither shade nor water; down into orange groves, and 
fruit trees and long grass ; and then into Macchia, among 
small pines, and cypress of the kind outspread like cedars, 
and climbed up on to a high rocky ridge, the island back- 
bone, among cool fir woods, old lichen-covered trees where 
the air struck cold. The anemones are in bloom, both 
the white and the bloodstained ones of the legend; and 
leaves everywhere of asphodel and narcissus. And all is 
absolutely lonely. The peasants live shut up in villages, 
which you come upon with startling suddenness, glittering 
white, low and flat-roofed like clusters of boxes. 

We stopped at Malona. A beautiful Greek woman took 
us to pick tangerines in her garden where the trees grew 
in a wilderness among the young shoots of wheat. I 
learned to say "Good morning" and "Thank you". The 
people are very friendly as we pass. They stretch out 
their arms in a Fascist salute to our Government car, and it 
seems to go with the country. This is a good Government 
indeed for an ignorant and rudimentary people; the 
Governor is devoted to them, and no time is wasted in 
discursive legislation. 

Signor Benetti is Bolognese and knows all our friends, 
and now accepts me as mysterious but no longer deplorable. 
I suppose no Italian can imagine me to be genuinely 
interested in Arabic ; except the man at the museum who 
can sympathize with lunatics, being an enthusiast himself. 

We stopped again to watch a bridge being built. The 
women here do all the heavy labour : they were steering 
wheelbarrows of gravel up the steep planks. 

We came out again to the coast, running by white and 
blue bays of sand. Round a sudden corner, Lindos 
appeared, an old Acropolis above the sea. The little 
white town is on the neck of the promontory, the red rock 
over it, not a tree in sight. It belongs to the archaic days, 



12 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

but only fragments of walls and columns are left., and what 
remains is the fortress of the Knights, its wall and great 
stairway, and the sea far below. As you go up the stair, 
however, you come on the shape of a galley, carved in the 
cliff, the work of some very early wanderer. I can't tell 
you what magic of the earliest ages lies on this place ; the 
Knights have gone, but the spirit that still lives here is long 
before their day. Down below, across a bay as dark as a 
sapphire, there is a smaller headland, also of red rock ; and 
there is the little dome of Cleobulos who was one of the 
Seven Sages, and asked to be buried in that loneliness. 
It is all mystery; but a limpid mystery: the sun and sea 
and the clear light of the islands ; there seemed to be no 
sadness in these lost ages. 

We turned back into the town, escorted by the Mares- 
ciallo of Garabiniers whose men were cooking our lunch. 
He told me what a hot place it is, up to 120 in summer; 
there is scarce a tree except an olive or two and the sun 
beats against the red cliffs behind the town. There is a 
small post of seven carabiniers, and the wretched bureau- 
crats in Rome refuse to grant them leave to wear drill 
uniforms and topees in the hot weather. They seemed on 
very good terms with the people there. They spend their 
evenings teaching the children Italian, and as we went 
through the streets with them the women came out to us 
with little nosegays and greetings. 

We called at one of the Greek houses to see Rhodian 
pottery in its home. It takes its name from Lindos, and 
there wer$ about thirty of the beautiful plates hanging on 
the wall. The designs and colours must surely come 
originally from Persia? The red is made of crushed coral 
and very rich. These plates are always kept as a dowry 
for the girls of the family. They are practically unobtain- 
able now; the modern ones cannot get the colour, or any- 
thing near it, and the factory at Kuteiba, which was the 
best imitation, is now closed also, and its wares increasing 
in value. This was the richest house in the village, with a 
facade worked all over with delicate traceries, and they 
were very proud of their treasures. They had a marvel of 
the old red and green island embroidery and a good rug 
spread high up in one corner over the nuptial bed. The 



RHODES 13 

rest was all cheap prints and cotton covers. The daughter 
of the house stood before us holding a tray with quince 
jelly and teaspoons and glasses of water and little glasses of 
vermouth and comfits. Benetti told us what to do. It is 
a rite of hospitality. We took a spoonful of jelly; then a 
sip of water; then all the vermouth; then a sweet. The 
girl stood before us, one after the other, which must have 
been very tiring. I was glad I had learnt to say "thank 
you". 

The carabinier then took us to their small barracks 
where his men had arranged a divan for us on the terrace 
in front of the view. Meanwhile they were preparing us 
a gigantic pasta asciutta. They were nice simple southerners, 
very anxious to please Benetti's guests. I had a dreadful 
lot of polite talking to do as the guest of the Government 
and the only one there to be happy in either French or 
Italian. I had to make speeches ; and remembered to ask 
if the Maresciallo might join us at our meal, which pleased 
Benetti. I am now sending them a box of sweets as the 
only return I can think of for their kindness. 

Your own FREYA. 

8. To her Mother. 

AT ANCHOR IN RHODES, s.s. Diana, 3.12.27. 

DARLING B. 5 

I am away again, feeling that some months in 
Rhodes might have gone very happily. I had a pleasant 
morning wandering among the Turkish graves, and home 
through the old streets, and met a flock of turkeys being 
herded through the middle of the town, with a melon seed 
thrown now and then before them to encourage them in 
the right way. I plucked up courage and walked into the 
mosque which was once Santa Maria of the Knights ; very 
restful now and dilapidated. The sun streamed in through 
little round panes of blue and yellow glass and two sparrows 
were chattering in the dome. I was stooping to take off 
my shoes when an old man signed to me that it did not 
matter so long as I avoided the carpets which were all 
massed in the middle. And so I sat down on a seat and 



14 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

looked at the walls where the peeling plaster is never 
renewed, and at the untidy sabots strewn about for the 
feet of the faithful, and at the absurd grandfather clock, 
and wondered why it was all so harmonious. That was 
a well-spent morning. 

An old Turkish doctor came to call on the D.s a 
kindly old gentleman with a black terrier fondly called 
Fox and the largest turquoise ring and studs you ever saw. 
He had a sort of rosary of black coral and spent the time 
passing the beads through his fingers placidly in the pauses 
and they were many, for the D.s have only about five 
words of French between them ; they just go on talking 
English and expect the world to understand. But they 
are nice young things, and she especially, trying so hard 
to keep her young husband in bounds of propriety when 
he gets carried away by his naval reminiscences. He left 
the navy, but it has remained with him. 

I have been looking out at the hills of Anatolia. Benetti 
says they would shoot any foreigner at sight who should 
land there. I doubt it. But the Turks keep it all closed 
against Italians, who are looking that way with obvious 
appetite. All that I have known to come over from 
Smyrna since my arrival is a travelling circus, and you 
will be interested to hear that the lion died of seasickness 
on the way. 

I came out to the Diana from tea with the Governor's 
lady such a clever little lady, with quick movements like 
a mouse and a mouse's long nose and narrow face and 
bright, kind little eyes. I was the only lady to tea with 
twenty-five students from Italy and a number of stout 
official gentlemen ; and as I was standing just behind her 
Excellency my hand got kissed twenty-five times also, on 
false pretences. She is interested in the island embroidery, 
and is trying to start it again; but there is a, difficulty in 
finding dyes, and the old stitches are nearly lost; only one 
old woman in the island knows them, and she refuses to 
part with the secret ! It was like an ode of Hafiz to come 
up to the house, for it was moonlight already, and one 
approaches it through a formal garden full of roses with a 
fountain splashing. The house itself is full of lovely things 
arranged with great taste. She said we must go and spend 



S.S. DIANA' 15 

a winter in Rhodes, and asked me to call on her in Rome, 
and the Governor also. 

The Diana had meanwhile anchored outside the harbour 
and had to be telephoned not to start without me. I was 
anxious, for a poor man watched his boat steam out the 
other day without ever recognizing it till it was too late. 
She was lying about three kilometers out, all lighted up 
and looking painfully ready to start as I came down, and 
you can imagine my feelings when I discovered that my 
deck chair and camping kit, which had been left locked up 
in the dogana, were not to be had because the man with 
the key had disappeared. Messages, telephone, sympathy 
and general interest, a little bad English with various 
soldiers and Greeks on the jetty of the lonely little custom 
house ; finally a bicycle lamp slowly making its way round 
the far side of the harbour; the man appeared with the key 
in his pocket. It was very unreal rowing out in the night 
under the fort and the windmills on the pier. Three large 
vessels at anchor were floating like bunches of stars in what 
looked like a deeper sky below them. The moon was 
riding through big white clouds over the ramparts. 

We have just started now and I am going to bed. 

Your own FREYA. 



9. To her Father. 

s.s. Diana. 5.12.27. 
DEAREST PIPS, 

I don't know whether this will be a long letter, for 
the boat is ploughing along with great slaps of water 
banging her side and a tinkle of spray at intervals, just like 
the sound of splintered ice slipping down the slope when 
you cut steps in a glacier. I was very languid at breakfast, 
and had to climb to the open air, and looked at Cyprus 
with a jaundiced eye, only wishing that the wretched island 
would stand still. It was a kind land, however, for it got 
between us and the Greco Levante, whatever that may be, 
and gave us quite a smooth sea till we turned this last 
corner. Now there is howling in the rigging, and the engines 
going heavily, and three objectionable Greeks in the saloon. 



l6 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

We had great luck yesterday and put in to Adalia to 
deposit a cargo of sugar. The Turks are not anxious for 
visitors and very few ships go there now. To get there one 
has to follow the coast. You have no idea of the magnifi- 
cence of Taurus, rushing in wild peaks straight from the 
sea to anything between three and ten thousand feet. All 
desolate. No villages, no cultivation; you slip by for hour 
after hour and at last long for some sign of life. Finally the 
ground slopes more gently and runs out in a long low red 
cliff making an immense bay of level and fertile land with 
the hills* at the back. Streams pour themselves over the 
edge of the cliff into the sea in a series of cascades, and at 
the bottom of the bay is Adalia. It has old Venetian walls 
crumbling down into the water, and a shabby clustering 
town behind, and a sandy cove where boats are drawn up, 
all painted a dull lacquer red. The only smart objects in 
sight were the Turkish officers who, to everyone's surprise, 
allowed me to go ashore. A huge Turk seized the mail 
bags or what looked like them, and off we went, rowing to 
the quay. 

I then climbed streets as rough as Acceglio, full of big 
stones, the houses overhanging as gimcrack as you please, 
though sometimes the lower floor is of good stone and 
possibly built by the Venetians ; above that it is thin laths 
of wood nailed criss-cross, and it must be chilly when 
the wind blows from Taurus. I believe the Turks must 
have been the inventors of bow windows, there were so 
many, and prettily painted; until you noticed from some 
splintering corner that there is nothing but lath and 
plaster underneath. I came on a most interesting gateway 
in the battlements; the middle arch is damaged but the 
two side ones are intact, with roofs carved in squares of 
marble, very delicately. But in the middle of the town 
the ramparts dwindle away, and their stones are being 
stacked to use for building, with bits of column among 
them. 

The whole of Adalia is silent and shabby until you 
come to the market streets, three or four of them together 
at the top of the hill, and suddenly ypu realize that this is 
the centre of a big country. I walked about among the 
open shops where there seemed to be every gimcrack 



ABALIA 17 

produce of Europe and every colour of the East ; the best 
were the bakers' ; the bread is shovelled out of a sort of 
black cave at the back and stacked all hot and smelling 
good, for sale before us. There were fine country people, 
more serious than Italians or Greeks, but with .good- 
natured faces, and with marvellous sashes and the apache- 
like caps which Kemal has substituted for the tarboosh. 

Women there were, tramping along veiled, with tight 
trousers and frills round the ankles. Saddlebags and 
stirrups. The strange language gave it the effect of a walk 
in a dream. I saw not one European inscription in the 
town; the only signpost I could understand was over a 
photographer's, an angel with wings dropping portraits on 
surprised gentlemen in bowler hats below. There is a 
mosque with a good minaret made as it were of a sheaf of 
six round minarets put together. The whole of it must 
have been coated with blue and green tiles, for one can 
still see traces of them at the joins. An old man with 
whom I managed a few words of Arabic, told me it was 
Seljuk fourteenth century, I believe. 

The Turks had only given me two hours on land. They 
are very nervous. The sight of my camera was instantly 
disapproved of. One of the officers on board told me that 
when Mussolini made one of his more aggressive speeches 
one of the Lloyd Triestino boats happened to be anchored 
here. The Turks took it for granted that the ultimatum 
was on its way and tried to collar her as she was heaving 
anchor. 

I went down again to the harbour after an hour or so 
and sat waiting for a boat and watching the wireless being 
unloaded and hauled up the quay by about forty men; 
one fat headman sang the verses of a chant to which they 
all responded in chorus : "La llah ilia Allah" was all I could 
make out. 

My old Turk came and rowed me out together with an 
amiable young Turk in spats and Homburg hat who told 
me in bad German that he was Director of Commerce. 
I said his markets were very fine, and we shook hands like 
friends, and I paid five piastres less to the boatman in 
consequence. 

Your loving FREYA. 



l8 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

10. To Miss Buddicom in India. 

s.s. Diana, MERSINA. 7.12.27. 
DEAREST VENETIA, 

This is all enchantment. The names alone would 
satisfy an average mortal. I have seen Taurus from the 
sea, and turned the headland of Paphos with waves so 
blue Venus might have been born that minute. I have 
been told of the excellence of the hotels on Olympus and 
would have taken the train to Tarsus this morning only 
the Turkish authorities would not allow. I have seen 
flying fish sea-swallows the Italians call them and have 
got money out of the Ottoman bank; and decided that 
Mersina has nothing but a string of camels to recommend 
it, and its hills at the back ; the plain shelves up here, from 
sand, to scrub, to snow. 

These are all open roadsteads; it takes about half an 
hour to be rowed to or from the Diana ; luckily the wind is 
* light and from the north. 

You have been rolling along in passenger liners and 
cannot think what a lot of incident is brought into life by a 
cargo that has to be lifted or lowered out of or into red and 
yellow lighters at every anchorage. 

I have seen the last of my fellow passengers depart, and 
am now alone in great state with the captain? and chief 
engineer and rather looking forward to solitude, for I 
have never been so much talked to in my life before ; the 
Eastern Mediterranean is simply crowded with friends. 

Yesterday in Larnaca I was seized upon by a fat Greek 
stranger of whom I asked my way to the bank. He took 
me there, and we found it closed, so changed money at his 
office. He then hailed a cab and informed me that he was 
going to shew me the country. He had a Napoleonic 
profile the hundred days rather than the Directoire 
stage and his English was founded on the three books 
on his office desk: Business Phrases, A Summary of the 
British Constitution^ and a Slang Dictionary. It was very 
funny. We drove out and out into the country, flat 
and dusty, with carub and acacia. We came to a Salt 
Lake with a beautiful range of hills reflected in it. I was 



CYPRUS AND ANTIOGH 19 

getting slightly anxious, especially when he said the carriage 
could go no further, and took me along a path through 
the lonely sandy forest. It would have been delightful, 
only I was distracted from the beauties of nature by my 
doubts, and wondering whether this is how they always 
welcome strangers in Cyprus. At last I said firmly that I 
had gone far enough, and we returned, with nothing 
alarming by the way. Later on I discovered that my 
friend was the local tourist agent, and politeness his 
business in life. But even so, he carried it to an extreme 
point, for he would not let me pay for my cab, or my tea 
after, and even insisted on choosing my toothpaste for me 
at the chemist's: Cherry Blossom, he told me, "is fine, 
first-rate," and Cherry Blossom it had to be. 

I don't know whether it was this excess of entertainment, 
or the sight of neat suburban things, schools, hospitals, 
clubs, and green railings ; but I feel pleased to be in these 
shaggier lands again, where you need a police permit to 
go by train to the next village, and where it requires some 
discrimination to distinguish the police officer from your 
own ragged boatman. 

To-morrow I hope to come into Arab-speaking country. 

It is very cold here. I live in my fur coat. 

Your loving FREYA. 

ii. To Miss C. A. Ker. 

s.s. Diana, OFF ALEXANDRETTA (ISKANDERUN). 8.112.27. 
DEAREST CAR, 

You must hear about this morning, for it was the 
last of your present, spent riotously and most successfully 
on a pilgrimage to Antioch all by myself (I being the only 
passenger now on board) with an Arab chauffeur and a 
boatman who refused to be shed at the landing stage. 
Great thrill to find my Arabic adequate for getting what 
I want, and even for a limited admiration of natural objects, 
though my adjectives are painfully monotonous. 

We went high up,- how high I don't know, but the 
Turkish wind came like a knife round the corners and 
there was ice in the ditches. We stopped at the first 



20 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

village to look at a khan the proper sort with gloomy 
arches and animals tethered, and people stooping over 
fires in the small side chambers. The police came and 
looked at me benevolently ; the boatman, who now fancied 
himself my personal bodyguard, handed cigarettes round 
to the village at large, and we went on, up the pass, through 
myrtle and oleander, and here and there a tree, past a long 
string of camels, a glorious sight against the sky; then 
down in loops and at a great rate, with the lake of Antioch 
lying as it were in the middle of a shallow saucer of marshy, 
fertile land with hill horizons on every side. Nothing 
moving in all the lonely country except black outlines of 
oxen ploughing. The villages are just clusters of low 
rooms thatched over, invisible at any distance. No trees, 
except here and there one solitary specimen. 

It was astonishing after all this loneliness to find Antioch, 
with a ruined castle crag above and the muddy Orontes 
before it, swarming with life. Streets of red leather shoes ; 
streets of carpenters, blacksmiths, weavers at their looms 
with the goat whose hair is being woven into saddlebags 
tethered to the doorpost. Every kind of costume and 
colour worn with every degree of casualness. The country- 
men who travel with their donkeys wrap up their heads so 
that the first impression is a population all suffering from 
toothache and nothing like the dignified turban of the 
Arabian Nights ; but it is the Arabian Mights all the same. 

I invited my two Arabs to coffee in the main street in the 
sun, our little cups of sweet sticky stuff on three chairs in 
front of us, and the goats and donkeys and vivid ragged 
garments all brushing by them. I very busy trying to eat 
an orange presented by the boatman, and after one prudish 
Western qualm, flinging the peel into the middle of the 
street with true* Oriental spirit. 

My Arabic was not good enough for enquiries about 
St. Paul. Besides, my chauffeur had said something about 
Armenians with so much vehemence that I thought he 
might perhaps dislike infidels altogether. I saw nothing 
of Christianity except one quiet square with the Greek 
church, very plain and whitewashed inside and out, and 
not remarkable except for the good proportion of its arches. 
All ruins; the medieval castle on its crags, the old walls 



TRIPOLI 21 

almost unrecognizable in the marshy land; and a few 
Greek sarcophagi of marble ; but the position in the centre 
of that rich country tells what a glorious place it must once 
have been. 

The mosque was a place of peace. A little enclosed 
piazza of marble, mellowed by ages of sunlight, with four 
orange trees laden with fruit growing between the slabs of 
the pavement. Inside, the sun was streaming on to white 
walls, and arches just touched with green and yellow in a 
simple pattern, and the carpet floor blazing like a ruby. 
My chauffeur hesitated about taking me in ; but my Arabic 
was too bad to understand objections; and there was no 
one inside but an old sheikh in a corner who woke up with 
smiles at my offering for the poor. 

I arn fairly flourishing; not good for mountains, but 
good enough I hope for Arab grammar. 

Ever so much love from FREYA. 

12. To her Mother. 

s.s. Diana, TRIPOLI. 9.12.27. 

DARLING B., 

An awful night last night. The wind comes howling 
down the empty funnels of these hills, and the poor Diana 
simply staggered under it. I followed its three separate 
melodies most of the night, the high piping in the rigging, 
the tramp of the engine working hard, and the slap of the 
seas which sent drops of cold water on to my face through 
the closed deck window. I have been feeling rather ill 
anyway the last few days and shall be glad of dry land. 

Tripoli looks well from the sea. Rudel's castle stands 
above the middle of the town and the cedars of Lebanon 
are visible to the inward eye at the back. It was no good 
trying to get ashore as the captain refused to guarantee my 
coming out again and one has to be carried through 
breakers by the Arabs. There is a breakwater, of which 
we are on the lee side; but all passengers, and all the 
lighters full of Gzechoslovakian sugar, and the poor droop- 
ing bullocks from our deck, have to go by the bad side 
where the douane is waiting for them through five or six 



22 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

lines of boiling foam. I suggested at lunch that two or 
three douaniers might walk across and wait for people on 
the easy side, but the two new passengers (who are Italo- 
French-Levantine officials) looked as if they thought me a 
Bolshevik. They say Jaffa is the worst of these roadsteads : 
I make a note to avoid it. 

Did you have an eclipse of the moon last night? The 
captain cajled me, and the stars were like new pins and 
the moon smoky dull red, her left side just beginning to 
come to life again. 

I should like to paint our cargo on the lower deck: a 
crowd of patient, unhappy sheep with drooping heads and 
long sad ears, and eleven black bullocks. The men, too, 
loading and unloading, with their baggy trousers and red 
tasselled tarbooshes, looking just like Sinbad the Sailor as 
I met him in the picture-book on my ninth birthday. 
Herbert gave him to me, and is probably responsible for 
my being here. 

A British boat has anchored on the other side of the 
breakwater, and no one can go near it because of the high 
seas. 

Your own FREYA. 



2. LEARNING ARABIC AT BRUMANA. LETTERS 1363 

The writer of these letters is now to spend three cold 
winter months at Brumana, a Syrian village on a slope of 
the Lebanon high above Beirut. She went with a recom- 
mendation from the well-known orientalist Sir Thomas Arnold, 
and her object in settling there was to gain a command of 
fluent Arabic. She had already received a grounding in this 
difficult tongue, first from an old Franciscan missionary friar 
at San Remo, then in 1926 from an Egyptian teacher in 
London, and finally in 19.27 at the School of Oriental 
Studies. 



13. To Mrs. Jeyes. 

BRUMANA. n DEC. 27. 
DARLING VIVA, 

The last two days on board were really rather 
wretched. I was beginning to wonder what dispositions 
to make about my corpse when dry land and mountain air 
restored me. I now only have the ordinary pain, which I 
consider sufficient for one person's allowance, and rather 
hope a few months here will cure it, for the staple food is 
what they call leban, a kind of curds, and what could be 
more soothing? 

My hostess, Mile. Audi, is a gentle little thing with a sort 
of refined and faded youth still clinging to her, all alone 
with one maid in a little square stone house with white- 
washed rooms, very clean and full of plants in pots. Stone- 
tiled floors and a stove in the sitting-room which, however, 
she says smokes in cold weather. "But then/' she says, 
and points to a brass brazier on a tripod in the middle of 
the floor, "we sit round that, and it is delicious": and I 
can't help wondering whether it will be considered rude 
to sit in my fur coat. 

Mile, had a teacher all ready waiting called Salehmy, 
who is to teach me from 5.30 to 6.30 every day. Mrs. Fox 
at the Quaker Mission seems to have her doubts, but the 



24 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

head of their school is also going to see me, and between 
them they will no doubt hustle me along the paths of 
knowledge. 

The time table here is almost monastic. Breakfast 8; 
lunch 12.30; tea 3.30; supper 6.30; bed 8.30. 

Mrs. Fox has been here for years and followed Allenby's 
advance through Palestine with soup kitchens. She says 
the Turkish corruption is outshone by the present adminis- 
tration (I hope they don't censor letters here). The 
Maronites are the only people who wanted the French and 
they are now cooling off, and altogether this district is far 
worse off comparatively than it was before the war. 

Your loving FREYA. 

14. To Miss Buddicom. 

BRUMANA. 14 Dec. 27. 

MY DEAREST VENETIA, 

I have taken my map and compass out this morning, 
and sat under a pine tree looking at Lebanon and thinking 
of you. 

Brumana is a glorious village, a long ridge of neat stone 
houses with red hillside of pines drooping straight to 
Beirut and the sea, and Lebanon, a stony mass with narrow 
slits for valleys, rising very evenly to its snowy watershed 
on the south. It is all spotted with red-roofed prosperous 
bourgeois little hamlets, but even from here one can see 
where the civilized fringe ends, and when you join me we 
should get into lovely country inhabited by jackals and 
Druses where you may come round any lonely corner and 
see the flutes of Pan actually being played on. I saw this 
myself, and loved the sad sweet sound of them, and helped 
the owner to retrieve his chickens which, in the musical 
interval, had escaped off the back of his mule where all 
worldly goods here are carried. 

If we go over this watershed (Lebanon) across the broad 
valley and along the fringe of Hermon by Rasheya (where 
much of the fighting was) to Damascus, it should take us 
ten fairly active days ; without counting a couple of days 
at least for Hermon. I am a miserable being yet at hills, 



BRUMANA 25 

but should manage with a mule, and this route could, I 
believe, be managed at any time of year by a judicious 
arrangement of halts so as to avoid nights on the highest 
ridges. We should always be in fairly easy reach of 
civilization very like Andorra with its grand hotels dotted 
at intervals and the good untouched country in between. 
Anyway I submit the plan, after looking at the country as 
well as I can from here and getting information from the 
local people. They all say it is too cold till May for 
sleeping out, but one can ask for hospitality from the 
village priest or sheikh. 

Goodness knows how much of this impossible colloquial 
Arabic I shall be able to manage by the Spring! So far it 
seems difficult, but the greatest difficulty is to prevent the 
kind people here from practising all the European lan- 
guages on me. I only wish I had not confessed to knowing 
French. 

When I came here (four days ago) Mile. Audi rather 
appalled me by saying that there was "quite a lot of 
Society in Brumana. Bible classes, Y.W.C.A., and 
Reunions for Improving one's Mind." So far this terrible 
vista has not filled in so far as I am concerned, except for a 
Quaker service on Sunday, hymns and sermon all in 
Arabic, and most improving though possibly not in the 
manner intended. 

I long for a letter from you ; and wonder when this will 
reach you. If anywhere near Xmas, it will bring my 
Xmas wishes, but the dearest love anyway and at any time. 

Your loving FREYA. 

15. To Mrs. Jeyes. 

BRUMANA. 122.12.27. 
MY DEAREST VIVA, 

Nothing could have given me greater pleasure than 
to open your letter and find your picture inside. It was so 
nice to come upon it under my umbrella on this dreary day. 
I have to go out in any weather at least twice a day to keep 
warm, and the post is a good object when landscape is 
invisible in mountain deluge. 



26 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

The Mission school gave its entertainment on Tuesday 
night and we all went. Such a funny mixture. One of 
the items will shew you what a jumble of scholars it is. 
They had eleven boys, each with one letter of the word 
BROTHERHOOD pinned on to his chest. They stood 
in a half circle, and each boy in his own language repeated 
a sentence to say that the world is one great family and his 
own nation a member thereof; it was English, French, 
Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Hebrew, Armenian, 
Turkish Arabic, Egyptian Arabicj?jSyrian Arabic. 

There was a sword-dance too, and that was fascinating. 
The two boys had real scimitars and targets and it seemed 
impossible they should not slash each other as the things 
whirled round their heads at terrific speed, I thought 
that one ought to be clapping time for them, and heard 
afterwards that they complained of the dispiriting effect of 
a perfectly silent audience. 

Salehmy has been telling me that tigers used to inhabit 
the Ras el Meten valley where I was so happily wandering. 
I think this is a delusion, and that anyway he means 
panthers, and even so . . . ! especially as he tells me such 
strange details about the domestic habits of the hyena. 
He says the hyena lures you into its cave, then tickles you 
till you die, so that it may eat you dead. (His French is 
poor, he may not quite know what he says.) "Why does 
one follow the hyena to its cave?" say I. "C'est par la 
sympaihie^ says Mr. Salehmy, very solemn in his effort to 
explain. He tells me however that Miss Cook is wrong in 
affirming that the hyena walks under our windows every 
night. What we hear are the jackals, careering in the 
valley with piercing little barks and shrieks that sound 
peculiarly evil. 

Your loving FREYA. 

1 6. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 23 DEC. 27. 

DARLING B., 

We had the first real winter's day here yesterday, a 
perfect deluge all day, and poor Mile, in Beirut shopping. 



BRUMANA 27 

The Stoneys wired they were motoring from Damascus, 
and arrived having done about 260 klm. in the rain, over 
two mountain ranges and round by Baalbek. I took 
rooms at the hotel for them, and found an oil stove too of 
which they probably did not value the uniqueness, and 
went with them to dine. It was cheerful to see them, and 
hear about their tour. Mrs. S. told me it was delightful in 
Jericho to see her ^usband (who farms his land in Ireland) 
and the Head of the Palestine Agriculture neglect all ruins 
of antiquity and, with every appearance of reverence, make 
for a low mound, which turned out to be a very special 
kind of manure. 

They know the Government House people in Jerusalem 
and have offered me introductions both to the Plumers 
and the A.D.C., Capt. Drummond. The accounts they 
heard of Syria were much the same as I have here. 1 Pales- 
tine, however, is to roll in wealth, the Dead Sea being all 
potash: so that something may be said even for Sodom 
and Gomorrah. 

We had quite an exciting time finding the hotel in the 
dark and mud. I got into their car, which was already 
very full with various valises and one Armenian lady. She 
tried to assure us by saying that the local chauffeurs are so 
safe because always chosen among the married men; I 
amended to "happily married", which seemed to make her 
thoughtful. 

We are going to tea to-day with missionaries from China. 
On Sunday two Syrian ladies to lunch. On Monday 
evening, entertainment at Mrs. Fox's. On Tuesday the 
Manassehs arrive, after having had their pockets picked 
and passports stolen in Paris such an affair! 

I begin to try my hand at sentences, but it is slow work. 
Rather pleasant however when I went to Mrs. Fox's and 
was asked how long I had been at it, to be told, when I 
said apologetically "two years," that "of course, that is 
nothing for Arabic." I get so tired of hearing it taken for 
granted that it is a language one can pick up like French. 

I hope you have my letters now? They were such an 
effort to write when I was seasick, I cannot bear that you 
should not have them. 

Your FREYA. 



28 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

17. To Miss Buddicom. 

BRUMANA. XMAS EVE. 1927. 
MY DEAREST VENETIA, 

It fills me with remorse to read your enthusiasm 
over the chance of seeing Baghdad and me throwing cold 
water and being generally (as I do feel) most unsatisfactory. 
That wretched Prime Minister has not yet written, so it is 
still on the cards that I may not be able to go at all ; in that 
case I shall linger as long as you like and we can find a 
Beduin camp outside Damascus or make our way to Rum 
if you can stay long enough. But I still hope for Baghdad 
and shall wait till the New Year and then jog His Excel- 
lency's memory. 

In any case I feel that Baghdad is bad as a tramping 
centre ; and I have discovered a new and conclusive reason 
to make it unsuitable and that is that the Iraqi Arabic is 
completely different again from the Syrian, so that it would 
mean starting with no knowledge of the language (for 
speaking purposes). As for this Syrian, I am distinctly 
hopeful and ought to know a little more than the Spanish 
which took us so happily on our Andorra trip. The 
difficulty is to get accustomed to a language which pro- 
nounces hardly any of its vowels. But I can now put 
three words together and understand them when spoken, 
and really feel rather pleased with myself. 

I do hope, dear Venetia, you are thrilled over the Druse 
plan for I can't bear not to share these emotions. I long 
to have you for a look over the landscape and the map, 
one more alluring than the other. The essential is a good 
Druse guide, so as not to be drawn into religious troubles. 
I shall be able to get one through the Syrian doctor, who 
is away at present but returns next week. With enough 
Arabic to talk to our own guide, who will be able to make 
it clear that we are English and not French, there should 
be no trouble. 

It is miserably cold. I have to take so many short walks 
just to get warmth into my body that the whole day has 
gone before I know it. The only time out of the twenty- 
four hours in which I am warm at all is the latter end of the 



BRUMANA 29 

night in my bed, or when the sun shines for a few hours 
into my room. 

I must have some Stoic mixed with the Epicurean, for I 
can't help feeling pleased through all the discomfort at 
living as it were among real things; the sun not a mere 
ornament in the heavens, but something on which your 
day's happiness depends ; and the Spring looked forward to 
with all the feelings which you find in the old writers before 
the days of comfortable houses. 

You will like the building here. It is good square 
stone; neatly worked, and the Crusaders have left the 
pattern of their pointed arches, besides many carved 
pillars, which you see everywhere. It is pleasant after the 
ramshackle Turkish. Inside, the pointed windows and stone 
floors and general emptiness are Spartan. It is a funny 
mixture of primitive life and of French culture spread thin ; 
I trot along beside Miss Audi with her high-heeled little 
shoes and shingled hair, and meet the tall shepherds 
striding down from the hills, with an air about them 
unfettered by anything Europe has brought. 

It seems to me that much that the French have been 
doing here is thoroughly mischievous setting up a small 
class of townsmen who will have all the actual business of 
governing to do with no training at all in common with the 
people they have to look after. 

I am getting a fine knowledge of Syrian food for our 
mutual benefit. Very good too. 

I have more to talk about. This writing is a clumsy 
business all one really has to say left out. My love to 
you. I am glad you are in the world with me. 

Your FREYA. 

1 8. To Mrs. Robertson. 

BRXJMANA, XMAS DAY. 

MY DEAREST MRS. ROBERTSON, 

It is no good telling how often I have intended 
writing; that is always so feeble! But I do not want 
Xmas to pass without my dear and loving wishes. 

This is really "between the desert and the sown," for 



30 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

we are still among vines and mulberries and Beirut is a 
painfully Frankish town, and we go calling on each other 
in high heels and the Paris fashion last but one. But we 
look out to where the prosperous villages stop and the bare 
ridges go up to their watershed, and peasants come down 
from this country with gay beaded mules, sitting in baggy 
clothes on embroidered saddles, with a white cloth round 
their tarboosh if they happen to be Druses, and the rifle 
which the French have carefully eliminated obviously 
missing from their natural outfit. 

I have been trying to think why it is all so fascinating. 
The country is not more beautiful than Italy, and these 
towns far less so, and here there is not much glamour of 
colour or costume. I have come to the conclusion that it 
is the feeling of a life not merely primitive we have that 
in Italy but genuinely wild. The Christian who has 
lived for centuries on the edge of massacre; and the Druse 
who no doubt still fills his winter evenings with tales of the 
Old Man of the Mountain no amount of French education 
can cover this up. If I happen to be talking French as I 
stroll along the road with my landlady and catch a glance 
of hatred from some white turban passing by, it gives a 
feeling of the genuine original roughness of life which is 
worth the pilgrimage. 

I have been received with great friendliness and the 
village is doing its best to teach me only too pleased to 
find someone who has come neither to improve nor to rob, 
but with a genuine liking for their language. 

You will be amused at my Christmas day. A Maronite 
mass at 8.30, the ceremonial like the Latin, only set to the 
wildest Arab music, with a fast fierce gaiety about it that 
made the oddest contrast with all memories of masses I 
have ever heard. 

Then our Quaker meeting, where we sing Syrian hymns 
to the tune of "God Save the King," and rows of scholars 
from the Quaker school Turks and Armenians side by 
side, Iraqis, Syrians, Greeks, Egyptians listen politely 
while someone tells them that the World is really one 
harmonious family. This conglomeration of scholars is due 
to the motor car, and I am wondering whether Mr. Ford 
has not done something for the peace of the World after all. 



BRUMANA 31 

After the meeting I came home with two Syrian Quakers 
and we had our Xmas dinner, and I listened for three 
hours, understanding about one word in a hundred. The 
colloquial is quite a different language from the classical, 
and I shall be pleased if my four months here teach me 
enough for the very simplest conversation. The trouble 
is that no amount of study can teach it, for everything 
printed is in the classical, and one can only learn the other 
by talking and listening. 

The best of wishes, dear friend, 

Your loving FREYA. 

19. To Mrs. Aidan Thompson. 

BRUMANA. 27 DEC. 27. 
DEAREST P., 

Too bad to hear of jaundice. I do think we should 
be provided with a new body about the age of thirty or so 
when we have learnt to attend to it with consideration. 

Mine bears up with decent amiability under the strain 
of Syria and Xmas combined, and I believe my bright 
pink nose is due not to my inner self at all, but to the 
unspeakable cold. I am really quite pleased that the poor 
old body is able to put up with so much discomfort without 
actually being any the worse, and the fact that if you are 
never warm you also never catch cold is being borne in upon 
me. Never mind! It is all marvellous just the same, 
and very like real life ; and to-day I was really warm, for 
the sun shone in a sky bluer than anything but the best 
enamel and I went down the hill to try and find the water 
at the bottom. Every valley has a stream, I argued. But 
Lebanon has these deep clefts. You look across to a village 
quite close at hand, and it takes you a day to get there. 

I talked to two woodcutters in turbans, the only beings 
in the solitude of rocks and pines. I have reached the 
interesting stage when I can ask my way and not possibly 
understand the answer. 

You would be proud of your little friend if only you 
could hear what a multitude of adjectives expressive of 
the most exalted intelligence are lavished upon her but 
as I know exactly how stupid I feel this does not disturb 



32 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

my equilibrium. I cannot manage more than three 
words at a time, and ungrammatical. My reading is all 
love or religion ; the latter makes me feel at home with the 
sermons on Sundays and the former has no use for the 
present! I am working hard; three hours grammar and 
as much time after that as possible taking my landlady out 
for walks when I stammer on and insist on keeping her off 
perfectly easy French. 

My teacher is a nice-looking young Syrian and comes 
every evening, fixes me with fiery eyes, and pours out rules 
of grammar which sound exactly as if a cat were spitting 
at me. 

They are all Christian here about six different sorts. 
The Druses come in from the hills, undistinguishable 
except by a white wrap round their heads, and a fiercer 
look about them. I am trying to induce Venetia to agree 
that our tramp should be through their country (quite 
safe, I think, if we have a Druse guide and if only I can 
speak a little). I am waiting to hear. Meanwhile I shall 
do no sightseeing but work and save up. I live here on 
8s. 6d. a day including everything except postage stamps 
(my lessons are included). 

Oh, my dear, you can hardly iinagine what joy it is to 
be free all day long to do my own work; this alone was 
worth travelling across the world for. I sit in my little 
room and feel as if I were Queen of the Universe, and the 
fact that I have to get up and do exercises every half-hour 
to keep the circulation going makes no difference. 

Such an appropriate picture over my desk, too: two 
polar bears surrounded by icebergs, eating what remains 
of a frozen boat with the legend "Man proposes, God 
disposes," unconscious Victorian irony. 

The whole place is a most amusing mixture of Europe 
smeared thin on a whole depth of primitive life below. 
Even the landscape is like this with the perfect barbaric 
glory of its sunsets and its grand lines not laid out for 
peaceful friendly life, and then the neat villages built as 
tidily as toys. And you admire the little square houses 
and ask why so many of them are allowed to stand about 
roofless and windowless, and are told that these belonged 
to people who died of hunger during the war. And so it 



BRUMANA 33 

all is life and death side by side with a suddenness which 
gives a good barbaric flavour. 

Lovely silks, P. dear, I shall be tempted in Damascus, but 
shall have nothing left then. But if you want me to get any 
for you, let me know. The best are the gold woven gowns 
and the head shawls ; I saw them in Antiocfy and hankered. 

Otherwise there is nothing special here except the donkey 
harness, all "cockle shells and little bells," enough to make 
any donkey happy. 

Shall we meet in Asolo next summer? 

Your loving FREYA. 



20. To Mrs. Ernest Barker. 

BRUMANA. IST JAN. 28. 

MY DEAREST OLIVIA, 

The very happiest of New Years to you and Ernest. 
I feel a worm for not writing before. 

What am I to begin about now? I think I shall just 
tell you my good day in the country last Thursday. Such 
a good day it was, and I thought of 1 you, and W.P., and 
many many happy things, walking along under the 
Lebanon pines, which looked for all the world like a 
gentleman's park, or perhaps like the less cultivated 
corners of the Garden of Eden with the wild outer world 
arranged as a background. 

You should have seen the agitated circle of kind Syrians 
at Mile. Audi's tea party the day before, begging me not 
to go. Even the American mission lady assured me that 
strong men had been found half dead by the way; and 
finally a much-worried youth told me he would take his 
gun (for crows, not Druses) and see me as far as the bridge 
in the valley my object being the village, which looks as 
if we could throw stones into its lap from this side. 

It was very like Villatella country zigzagging down 
among myrtle, pine, and oleander and an incredible variety 
of thorns. A good well-marked track, stonier than any- 
thing in Italy, however. And, of course, a mule harnessed 
with beads (blue, against the evil eye) and cockleshells. 



34 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

and a driver in red sash and turban, are more interesting 
than our sober people. 

When I left my guide I began climbing the other side in 
the shadow. These valleys are so deep, the sun never gets 
at them I believe ; you look up and see a rim of sunny 
villages about 2,000 feet over your head, and you walk in 
what looks like absolute solitude, until the voices of wood- 
cutters shouting out to each other the news of one solitary 
female wanderer make you feel painfully conspicuous 
the sort of feeling I remember in the war when being 
suddenly focused by a searchlight. 

When the track divided I was stunned, of course, and 
sat down to consider; then Providence provided a young 
man, who afterwards told me he had run over half a mile 
to see my interesting person at close quarters. He took 
me along through delicious woodland, his French and my 
Arabic being equally bad till we finally came to his 
village and I had to be explained to the assembled relatives. 
I was invited into the house, and sat on a long divan 
admiring the beautiful clean whitewash and mats, and 
trying to answer questions about my clothes. The sister 
sat beside me with her arm round my neck, and the mother 
brought out their new dresses to show me. We then drank 
coffee, and I was asked to stay a month, or ten months, or 
a year, or at least a day; and finally I left with many kind 
words which I could not understand. My language does 
not yet run to sentences, and I get hopelessly tied up over 
the fifteen different ways of saying "good-bye" and 
"thank you". 

After this adventure I found my way easily and got to 
the village (all Druse) by lunch time, and was given a 
second lunch at the mission, which is perched in an old 
Druse castle with all the hills of Lebanon round it. I wish 
X could tell you how beautiful it was. The ladies at the 
mission were particularly pleased that the only person so 
far to do the walk both ways should be a woman (the two 
Englishmen who attempted it having had to return 
ignominiously by car). I discovered the reason on my 
return home. Two Syrian boys accompanied me by a 
short track where anyone would get lost without a guide. 

It was pleasant slipping down in the afternoon sun with 



BRUMANA 35 

the scent of the pines and thyme all about me, the boys 
giving me scraps of Arab poetry or playing on their reed 
pipes, joined with wax just as Theocritus has it, and filling 
the wood with the wild sad sound as we walked along. 
"It needs a long breath to fill the pipes/ 3 they said. 

In the crannies of the rock I found the first cyclamen. 

I was home by four, and had not walked over six hours 
actually, but it is hard walking for I must have been up and 
down over 10,000 feet, much of it like stairways. My 
heart went like a hammer all night. 

Tell Bernard I will write. My love to all meanwhile. 

Your FREYA. 



21. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 1.1.28. 
DARLING B., 

A Happy New Year to you! I was so pleased to 
get your letter when home from Beirut last night. I went 
to meet the Stoneys and their boat was not to come in till 
morning after all. I was disgusted, and haven't the energy 
to go again. It is an hour's hairpins, quite amusing with 
everyone jumbled into the cars : reminiscent of Mortola. 

I had enough Arabic not to lunch in the hotel but found 
a ragout, sweet, and coffee for five francs (French) cooked 
for me over a primus stove in a lowdown little place 
without tablecloths. The gramophone was set going for 
my amusement. 

I came back with a pleasant surprise for Mile. She 
had lost one of her immense pearl (?) earrings, and I got 
her a new pair in Beirut, and she was very pleased and 
became pro-British in politics on the instant. I am her 
amusement and object in life just now. She invited the 
young French teacher to dine with my Syrian teacher, 
and we spent the evening arguing about Syria he being 
one against three. He was finally told that it is only the 
English who always take an interest in the life and language 
of the countries they inhabit, which enormous untruth we 
both listened to in noncommittal silence. 

It is all very like Italy in some ways. The Mediterranean 



36 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

is one family. Of course Lebanon is quite different from 
Damascus and all beyond ; but here I find that my Italian 
knowledge makes me at home in a way which is quite 
foreign to any of the English except Mme. Manasseh, who 
has really adopted the Syrian way of living. 

But this is a sad people. Neither Arab nor European. 
They could not stand independently of Europe against the 
Moslems of the interior. And if they hang on to Europe 
they are made the tool of every disgusting politician. I 
believe there is nothing they can strive for with any hope 
of success. They are a fine-looking people too, magnifi- 
cently built men, and women with eyes like stars. And 
hardy they must be, or they would be all dead. It seems 
a waste. Goodnight, dear B. Your own FREYA. 

22. To Miss Buddicom. 

BRUMANA. 4.1,28. 

DEAREST VENETIA, 

Did I answer your letter of the seventh? I know 
what you felt, for I have had the same thing such a waste 
when one needs one's life for doing and feeling outside one's 
own poor body. I wonder will you be fit for the walking? 
Or should you have an extra mule all to yourself? 

My nice Syrian doctor says he will find the Druse guide 
when the time comes. Meanwhile I have written to 
Baghdad and hope to hear. 

About clothes one light woollen and lots of warm 
things, and shoes : six hours over these stones reduces them 
to ribbons. I went to the next village, very pleased to see 
that my timing of three hours was absolutely accurate: I 
was four on the way, with an hour's rest. I really went to 
get my "eye in," and also to discover whether I could do 
it, and it seemed to work well enough. How good it will 
be when you are here. You will go into raptures over the 
country, and mid-March is the time for flowers. 

I begin to attempt ambitious subjects like Doughty's 
travels in my efforts with Mile, at lunch. I get plenty of 
practice. Every afternoon we pay a call, about two hours, 
and sit on a divan talking gossip interspersed with one of 



BRUMANA 37 

the sixteen formulas of politeness which I have collected so 
far. After a while a large tray is brought in with delicious 
sweetmeats, wine, tea, etc. We take a little of each (so 
bad for me) and say "May this continue " as we put down 
the cup. "May your life also continue" say our hosts. 
And then we leave. 

I believe there is no feeling of class, at any rate in the 
country here. The division is religious, and as you see 
practically nothing of any religion but your own, you 
never have the unpleasantness of being surrounded by 
hostile people who are yet bound to mix up their lives with 
yours. Here, if I ask about someone in the village, Mile, 
just says: "I don't know her; she is Greek Orthodox,' 3 or 
whatever it may be. Or "The Mohammedans in Beirut 
pronounce such a word differently" like Benjamin and 
shibboleth! Think what a capacity for hatred it must 
mean to live for centuries in the same village and still fed 
like this about the next door neighbour. One can't help 
feeling sorry for the Mandatory who has to try and govern. 

This is a miserable letter, all scraps ; but it will never go 
unless I send it now. 

Your loving FREYA. 

23. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 6.1.28. 

DEAREST B., 

I have just got warm by going downstairs to see our 
neighbour make the flat sheets of bread I like so much. 
She sits on the floor with a round flattish cushion on one 
jknee and smooths the balls of dough out on a board with 
her palms and fingers till they are about the size of a plate. 
Then she throws them with a very neat quick movement 
first over one forearm, then over the other. Her arms are 
very brown, tattooed and with twisted gold bracelets. 
The round of dough grows and grows miraculously till it 
is about two-and-a-half feet across and almost transparent 
%he then tosses it on to her cushion, arranges the edges so 
as to make it as nearly round as possible, and throws it all 
in one movement, so as not to crease it, on to a little metal 



38 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

dome which is on the floor and has a few sticks and pine 
needles burning underneath it. In one minute the whole 
thing is cooked, and if the fire is well distributed, is nice 
and crisp all over, and very good. And it has the advan- 
tage of being good to eat for a week. 

While I sat there, the Greek Orthodox priest came and 
blessed us all with his little pail of water and brush of 
myrtle twigs. Yesterday we had the blessed bread sent 
us, a sort of X-bun flavoured with spices, which ought to 
have had a more soothing effect on my inside than it seems 
to have managed. 

My Syrian won't let me pay for my school books because 
he says he is so pleased I am learning his language. 

The Manassehs have come. He is a dear, like a bene- 
volent child, and so like the Colonello in expression, I 
have to love him only for that. There are two sets here. 
Those who are all for being Anglicised, and the Manassehs 
belong to these ; and those who are more for Arabic. And 
of course I am more popular with the latter- 

H's letter just come. Tell him he shall have my next, 
for he deserves it more than my neglectful parent. 

Your own FREYA. 



24. To Mrs. Jeyes. 

BRUMANA. 7.1.28. 

DEAREST VIVA, 

I was interested in the news of Ja'far Pasha, for he 
has not written a word (being so busy with treaties) and I 
do not know whether I am to go to Baghdad or not at the 
end of March. The other alternative is the desert beyond 
Damascus. I have an introduction (so to speak) for some 
of the tame Beduins, but am still in hopes that the more 
comfortable palace may be available. 

Some day, when I can get away and if I am still alive, 
I must come for a whole year and get the language into 
my bones. I shall not be happy till I can think in 
Arabic. f 

So far no one understands me except Mile., who is so 
like Miss Matty that I sometimes feel I am wearing a 



BRUMANA 39 

crinoline myself here. She is not pretty, but has dainty 
little hands and feet and clothes, and inexpressibly refined 
manners; and is always fluttering with emotions, which 
she lives on, I believe, for she never seems to eat. She has 
refined little flirtations (if so barbarous a word may be 
used for it) with the young French teacher, who is a 
Communist with a cherubic expression and large placid 
hands, from somewhere near Beaune. He was invited 
here for the evening, and kept us up till 10.30, much to 
Miss Rose's annoyance, who fears that such dissipation 
will be talked about among the neighbours. 

I do envy you your mild weather. But that is all I 
hanker for, and I am not lonely not more than one is 
anywhere in this box of a life. And happy to be at my 
own work. 

There is a nice woman here named Faridi who taught 
T. E. Lawrence Arabic down at Jubeil, when he was 
wandering among the old Syrian forts on his first coming 
East. I believe she is one of the few women he ever writes 
to not beautiful but with a good intelligent rough face 
and manner and very kind to me since, as she said : "You 
are one of us!" 

I feel so good. Every evening a prayer meeting for the 
first week in the year. It is mostly in Arabic. I can now 
recognize psalms and the names of most of the ordinary 
virtues; but whether these will be useful among the 
Druses remains to be seen. 

Ever so much love from FREYA. 

25. To her Father in Canada. 

BRUMANA. 14. i .28. 
DEAREST PIPS, 

I don't know, but I rather think I have been more 
than a week without writing. The days all go so quickly, 
one very like another, and one doesn't notice. It was 
very nice to look down through the field-glasses two days 
ago and see three big steamers in harbour, 2,300 feet below, 
and then sit expecting letters : and sure enough there was 
a fat batch, and your good note. 



40 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

It is good to feel you getting on. It is bound to be long 
not as long as my unspeakable complications, if that is 
any comfort, which of course it isn't. It will mean being 
careful. I have also had to get accustomed to the feeling 
that all the pleasant world may suddenly and at any 
moment come to a stop as far as I am concerned and it 
doesn't seem to spoil things, does it? Rather gives them 
a peculiar valuable flavour; a kind of glorified gambling 
feeling and I hope we may have this for many years. 
What I resent are days of pain and stupidity one has to 
put up with, and I am glad you are pretty well out of 
these. I have made up my mind that if ever I get really 
ill again I shall try to come out here, live on their sour 
milk, and be invisible to my friends till the business is well 
over. 

I had a good walk to-day, up the valley to the next 
village and saw fine country to explore, but everything is 
much further away than you would think. 

I have been enquiring about a small donkey harness 
for the children trimmed with shells and yellow and red 
tassels, and a collar of blue beads against the evil eye. The 
saddles are huge affairs of wood covered with ornamental 
carpet, the front, rather like the old feudal saddles, very- 
much raised, all studded with nails on leather. There 
are lots of cars here, but only for passengers, and all the 
transport seems to be mule or donkey, and if anyone has 
potatoes, or cabbages, or oranges to ' sell, he just puts 
them on his animal and goes crying them through the 
villages. 

Your own FREYA. 



26. To Mrs. Herbert Olivier. 

BRUMANA. 14.1.28. 

MY BEAR MARGARET, 

It is a disadvantage that one cannot be in two 
places at once. I shall not be home till well into June, 
and even this seems sadly early!. The East is getting a firm 
grip. 'What it is I don't know: not beauty, not poetry, 
none of the usual things. This place is a grand scene with. 



BRUMANA 41 

all the details neglected. Of course it is not the genuine 
Orient, only the semi-European fringe full of French ideas 
second-hand and second-rate, and European clothes and 
furniture peculiarly unadapted to the casual Eastern 
silhouette. And yet I feel I want to spend years at it 
not here, but further inland, where I hope to go as soon 
as I get enough Arabic for the absolutely necessary amount 
of conversation. 

The village is kind, at least the Christian part, for we 
all live in separate compartments and have little to do 
with such people as Druse or Greek Orthodox, though 
we may live next door. My landlady speaks of the Druses 
as Napoleon used to be spoken of to naughty children in 
England. Even the languages are different and you will 
be told that the Mohammedans pronotmce "a 93 in a 
way of their own just as. the Druse women wear a 
white veil. 

Everyone here is much interested in my Arabic. It 
seems I am the first to come and learn it for pleasure 
and this gives great satisfaction not unmixed with 
wonder. 

I do so agree with what you say about the interest of 
people ; they are more than scenery, or art, or any of our 
fashions. But why limit it to any particular bit of the 
world? I find them just as human here as anywhere eke : 
and one great interest in such a different civilization is 
that it gives you a sudden fresh view of your own; the 
nearest in fact to getting out of the world and examining 
it as an object The only people I don't care to study 
are the uncivilized African, or American. Here it is 
too much, not too little, civilization that is the trouble. 
That, and an incapacity for forgetting. Mile. Audi talks 
of iniquities of Druse governors two hundred years ago as 
if they had just happened. It is amazing to see all the 
primitive feelings coming through the refined convent 
breeding. 

I have good news of my father. Did I tell you he 
had been ill? I shall have to go out next autumn but 
kope it may be combined with London and a sight 
of you. 

Your affectionate FREYA. 



42 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

27. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 14.1.28. 

DATING B., 

Your letter and chocolates just come thanks ever 
so ; I am so glad of both. Galetti in the warmth of his 
feelings put a value of L.6o, which made me pay a great 
deal this end, but I am very glad to have something to 
give people here. They say the douane is 33 per cent 
from France \ one of the many things that are wrong. 

There is a rumour going round that Italy will take over 
Syria : I don't believe there is even one Syrian who desires 
it, and it is rather too bad to see the Powers at work bandy- 
ing people about in this unprincipled way. If Italy gets 
it, it will not be long before she is sorry! It is a 
poor country, and will never give much return, and I 
should think as difficult to govern as any country in the 
world. 

A little less cold these days and a feeling of Spring in the 
air : I took a long walk and got beautifully warm, but not 
yet feeling very well. Much better here than in most 
places, however good water, healthy air and people, and 
Mile, simply living for my food. I have the same sort of 
happiness as a man with a devoted and domestic wife, and 
sympathize with his contentment. Poor Mile! We went 
to tea yesterday and there were lots of people, and Miss 
CL (whose manners are casual and bad) didn't say either 
good-day or good-bye : and Mile, was quivering like one 
of your small earthquakes all the way home. What a lot 
of time and energy we save by having so few feelings ! 

I have finished my first grammar book and am con- 
sidered a Perfect Prodigy. It is practically learning a 
new language, and I hear with pleasure that the new 
Persian scholar at the school has to be spoken to in purest 
classical or he does not understand a word. 

I have been to see the embroidery school hybrid things, 
spoilt by Miss G's Kensington touch. Some beautiful old 
things. I think, however, I shall devote 1 myself to glass 
from the tombs ; it is such wonderful colour. What do you 



BRUMANA 43 

say? Or shall I spend all my money on X-raying my 
anatomy before I go among the Druses? 

Such fun at the meeting on Sunday. I thought the 
Arabic hymn sounded strangely familiar, and it suddenly 
dawned on me that we were singing it to the tune of God 
Save the King. It struck me as comic to make the 
benighted Syrian sing our own National Anthem when 
he wants to offer up a special prayer for Syria. 

Dear love to H. and a kiss to you from FREYA. 

28. To Miss Buddicom in India. 

BRUMANA. 18.1.28. 

DEAREST VENETIA, 

I was just wondering when your letter of the 4th 
came and I take it you have got mine, telling you all 
about this country. It grows on me more and more, even 
though I suffer from perpetual chills. But March should 
be good, and full of flowers. 

It breaks my* heart to think you will see Damascus 
before we walk in with our mules, and I am worried to 
think of the long air-voyage for you. I believe it is the 
least uncomfortable way overland, however. 

You must make your plans on the assumption that I go 
to Baghdad end of March, though I do not really know, 
and have just heard that my man is Minister no longer, 
which explains the delay. I hope it is no longer the fashion 
to put them in sacks and drown them at the end of office, 
just before I pay my visit. 

We are having most appalling weather. I see it pouring 
with the comfortable feeling that it is best to get it over 
now; and it makes it easier to sit over the pages of grammar 
if there is not all loveliness outside waiting to be explored. 

What fun we shall have buying coloured saddle-bags! 
Don't, don't linger in Damascus. You will see it from a 
horrid European hotel and it will be all wrong. 

I've come to the conclusion I don't like missions. I 
don't believe they are in any real touch with the people 
here, and feel they could have done so much better by just 
existing as a Christian school with no pretension to improve 



44 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

the heathen. It is extraordinary to see how little they 
manage to share the life of the place. I believe I am con- 
sidered eccentric for preferring the Syrians to these little 
Englands outside England which might just as well be 
within reach of the District Railway so far as any Eastern 
influence upon them goes. They will tell you how to get 
silk scarves, or Armenian servants, or British colony gossip 
(I suppose there are exceptions, but these also avoid the 
tea parties, I imagine). The Syrians are charmed to find 
that anyone is genuinely interested in their language and 
them. I feel that the real way to be a missionary is to 
come and learn. 

I wait to hear when to expect you. Shall I fetch you 
in Damascus with a car from here? It will be cheaper 
and I shall have the joy of consulting about our route as 
we drive through the country. 

I envy you the night in the jungle. 

Your FREYA. 



29. To Herbert Toung. 

BRUMANA. 1 9. 1.28. 

DEAREST HERBERT, 

I think you really deserve the next letter, for your 
two gave me so much pleasure, and my wicked mother 
does neglect me. 

I wonder what you would have thought of the Beduin 
music yesterday. I went in the doctor's car to help at 
their Sanatorium Xmas tree. Deluges very like Mortola, 
and the blankets, which had been* put up as screens on the 
open loggia, billowing about in a hurricane. The three 
Beduins, one a little girl of about ten, invited themselves 
in, very draggled and ragged, and sat on the floor with 
their instrument. It was their own make, a tin oil-can 
with a stick poked through and a peg stuck into the stick 
with a horse hair string drawn taut over a piece of wood 
by way of bridge. The bow was a crooked stick with 
another horse hair, and the music had a weird monotonous 
melancholy as if the desert winds had wailed for centuries 
and taught its secret tunes. We had a great time after- 



BRUMANA 45 

wards keeping the loot from these people, who grabbed 
all within reach. And then we had to keep the patients 
from pillaging the Xmas tree, and finally returned wet 
through and weary. 

I am so tired of the deluge. Mile, took pity on me and 
offered a hot bath. But it is not of the kind one gets 
right into, so that the water, nearly boiling over bits of 
me, and the rest of me in Arctic regions, made me feel like 
those ices with the hot chocolate sauce poured over them. 
I felt it was a pleasure too mixed to be repeated. 

Your loving FREYA. 

30. To her Father. 

BRUMANA. 21.1.28. 
DEAREST PIPS, 

I have just discovered that the little drawing-room 
window high up near the ceiling has no glass to it, so 
perhaps that explains why the stove has so little influence! 
It is like Paradise when I sometimes go and sit by one of 
the English fires, but I have evolved quite an elaborate 
system of self-protection now, and also we really are going 
towards the Spring. I remember there is an ode of Horace 
beginning c e Non semper imbres ' ' or some such, which expresses 
my feelings. 

I have been hearing stories of Druse massacres in 1860. 
It seems that an English doctor and his wife happened 
to be travelling in these seas at that time. He was ill, and 
put ashore and died in Beirut just when the trouble occurred, 
and his wife in her widowhood was touched by the sight 
of Druse widows and children pouring down into the town 
without food or shelter. She and the British Consul did 
all they could for them, and afterwards when she went 
home, she interested her brother in the business and they 
came out and started the British missions here. The 
Druses have never forgotten, and love us as much as they 
hate the French (and that is a good deal). I am told that 
when V. and I go about in their villages we shall find them 
very friendly. Last year, however, one could not go even 
to the next village with safety, and Mr. Oliver, who runs 



4$ LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

the mission at Ras el Meten across the valley and is adored 
in all the countryside, had to drive with a Union Jack on 
his car as the habit was to shoot first and ask after. 

Dearest Pips, bless you, I hope you are all right. I 
wish you were nearer, with no Atlantic in the way. India 
seems no way off: Venetia is to fly over in four days. 

Your FREYA. 



31. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 21.1.28, 
DEAREST B,, 

I went yesterday to call on Mrs. Fox. I am so 
lucky in meeting people all anxious to help and befriend, 
Mrs. F. is giving me letters to an elderly missionary lady 
in Damascus who will, I hope, find V. and me a room 
instead of going to the hotel. Mrs. F. says that if we go 
into the Druse country, the trouble will be with the French, 
who will take us for spies. I wonder if you could ask 
Giustino to procure a letter from someone at the Embassy to 
say we are innocuous? 

I suppose we shall be going some time in March, and 
will let you know where to send my summer things. So 
far clothes have been right, and a source of interest in 
the village. Mr. Ghamoun, who is the Syrian headmaster 
and the most intelligent person here, confided to Mile., 
after thinking it over for some weeks, that he thought I 
could not be intending to be a missionary. Perspicacious 
man! What I am, and wh^ learning Arabic, is a mystery. 
I can't help them in the matter. If I say I do it for pleasure, 
there is a look of such incredulity that I begin to feel as self- 
conscious about it as if I were telling the most blatant lie. 

Your own FREYA. 

32. To Mrs. Jeyes. 

BRUMANA. 22.1.28. 
MY DEAREST VIVA, 

It is good to hear that your various breakages and 
damages are really mending mended I hope by now. I 



BRUMANA 47 

have your letter, and am grateful to think of warmth and 
comfort on the way ! Just now there is a spasm of mildness, 
but I am told it is quite a mistake to think the worst is 
over, and that the elders of the village usually, if they are 
wise, go to bed in February and reappear in March. I 
might do likewise, but I am sure Salehmy would refuse to 
give lessons at my bedside like the Egyptian: he is nothing 
if not a most decorous young man. I can only hope his 
really beautiful eyes are not completely wasted: in fact 
I don't think they are. He comes twice a week in the 
evening after supper and then, after the lesson, we tell 
our fortunes with a crystal ball I once bought at a Glasgow 
fair and had the lucky idea of bringing with me. And then 
we play cards ! You have two packs, one in a jumble in 
the middle of the table and the other held by one of the 
players who turns the cards over slowly: you all try to 
draw out the similar card from the table pack as fast as 
you can, using only your little finger. This simple game, 
which rouses all one's worst fighting instincts, was taught 
me in Rhodes, and is a great success. It has slightly 
redeemed my reputation after a dismal show the other 
night when they worried me into reciting a French poem. 
You can imagine my feelings the whole room swimming 
and I nearly choked with my own heartbeats. I am not 
meant for a public sort of life! 

" I have been missing all sorts of interesting stories about 
Lawrence. We took tea at his friend Faridi's house, and 
the Arabic was beyond me, all except the description of 
how he arrived at Jubeil, very dilapidated after three 
months travelling with only twenty Arabic words and one 
suit of clothes; and how he stayed there three months. 
Faridi then wrote him out a copybook full of all the 
words he could want to help him on his way. After he 
had been in the desert a long time, he came back one 
day with his Beduin. Faridi was told that a gentleman 
wanted her who could talk: good Arabic which no one was 
able to understand. She told me that in fact she could 
not make out a word at first such is this impossible 
language. The people who come here to school from Iraq 
take two months or so to know what the village is saying. 
I went this morning to the Greek Catholic mass. The 



48 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

churches are like square boxes with a small hole in the 
roof for the bell and cupola over it. When I got inside I 
was surprised to find a beautiful old carved apse, all very 
dilapidated and poor. There were few here of this variety 
of religion, and the church has been unlucky besides ; its 
altar was demolished by lightning two years successively, 
which must be discouraging for the faithful. The service 
was a family affair, rather pathetic. The mustard-yellow 
check overcoats of the two young men who did the singing 
spoilt the general effect. The mixture of absurdity and 
solemnity, reverence and triviality, one feels so strongly 
in all these Christian sects. They have existed just on 
the edge of massacre for centuries, and this does give a 
certain dignity to their absurd differences even to my fat 
friend the priest from Aleppo. 

To-day I was stopped in the road by the owner of the 
public house, who told me that till I came he had never 
liked a European lady! This had to be translated, being, 
I am happy to say, out of my usual repertory, and I was 
rather uncertain which of my sixteen polite formulas to 
use in reply! Your loving FREYA, 

33, To Miss C. A. Ker. 

BRUMANA. 26,1.28. 

DEAR CAR, 

You are fairy godmother. Such a wonderful 
birthday present! I shall take it down to Beirut next 
week and promptly fall into every temptation I can find. 
What fun! I say Thank You only once, but shall think it 
often while wealth trickles through my fingers. 

Some of it shall be devoted to a comfortable donkey. 
Venetia comes in March and I mean to get her to look at 
Druses with me, as many of them as still live this side of 
Damascus since the French bombing. I think it would 
be about a fortnight's march, taking it easy and sleeping in 
villages, and I was just thinking how much more comfort- 
able it would be if I could afford half a donkey to fall back 
on when tired, and behold, here the creature is or as 
good as, for it is just finance that does it. 



BRUMANA 49. 

I am longing to try my Arabic with no other languages 
about. The hill talk is nearer the classical and' altogether 
pleasanter than this untidy town talk. The hill people 
are the right sort wherever they may be. 

I went yesterday for a long cross-country exploration 
with lunch in my pocket quite unnecessary for everyone 
offers food as one goes and what I actually ate turned 
out to be delicious dried figs wrapped in the local bread 
(which is thin like sheets of coarse brown paper) and pulled 
by a gentleman by the wayside from somewhere in the 
region of his tummy, inside his big red sash inside every- 
thing he had on, I rather suspect. However, it was all 
wrapped up in a clean white handkerchief and tasted 
remarkably good. I gave chocolate in return. 

He found me in the wilderness, for I took a short cut 
and, after losing myself among stones and thorns stonier 
and thornier than any I know I was clever and found a 
wood-cutters 5 path. There I met the man and was told 
that no lady had ever been seen here before, and was I 
married? This is always the first and most interesting- 
question , I suppose they think a husband should keep 
me safely at home. 

It was good walking in the solitude with the cyclamen 
and blue anemones blossoming all to themselves in little 
glades. The valleys go up steep as stairs from their river 
beds till you reach the first shelf: then up from shelf to 
shelf of good wide, level ground, till you find mulberry 
patches, and vines and villages on the third or fourth 
ledge where the sun can shine all day. There are no people 
down below except wood-cutters and charcoal burners. 
Now and then in the stillness you hear their axes and 
look and look till something gleams and moves among the 
tufts of trees and grey rocks. I don't believe even the 
winds get down into these deep valleys. One feels as if* 
one were surprising a secret as one goes down and it is 
almost as pleasant to come up again and meet the first 
cows or donkeys browsing about on the other side. 

Your loving FREYA. 



50 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

34. To Mrs. Aidan Thompson. 

BRUMANA. 26.1.28. 
DEAREST P., 

It was good to have a proper letter to browse over 
and to hear all the news. I am slightly troubled at the 
thought of his being so charming, for it will be depressing 
to have no unmarried friends left, and I have just come to 
the conclusion that I simply can't bear to part with my 
own charming and amusing life while I am well to enjoy 
it and I can hardly offer it even to the most undeserving 
husband when I am curled in cramps (which however 
has ceased to be since the cold stopped). So what am I 
to do while you are behaving like the Queen of Spain, 
and me left with no one to talk to? 

How I do dislike people with Moral Aims. Everyone 
asks me why I learn Arabic, and when I say I just like it, 
they looked shocked and incredulous. Not the Syrians. 
They all love me, and hand me round as an interesting 
and amusing specimen whose clothes are far more absorbing 
than what the mission usually provides. I must try to get 
accustomed to feeling conspicuous, for it will get worse 
and worse if Venetia and I go into the hills. 

Yesterday, as I came from a walk through a little group 
of houses, I was invited in (they always do this). I was 
glad of the rest, too. The rooms were beautifully clean ; 
stone floors and straw mats. In one corner a new yellow 
and white quilt and a head all wrapped in bandages (I 
thought). The lady of the house went up and shook the 
protesting head from its sleep. I couldn't tell whether 
it was a man or a woman, but asked whether it was 
wounded. 

"Oh no," said the lady, much surprised, "she is the 
mother of a baby," and there in the cradle, so covered 
that not a breath of air could touch her, was a two-day- 
old baby girl. "Another one here," said the grandmother, 
lifting a far corner of the quilt and rolling out a child. 
"And another here," turning over what seemed to be a 
small bolster. I sat contemplating from the divan, feeling 



BRUMANA 51 

as one does in the presence of the conjurer who manufac- 
tures rabbits, and not knowing what to say. Three girls 
one on top of another is a real calamity to a poor young 
wife. "You must be happy with your 'bint'," says I 
inadequately at last. "You can take one away with you," 
says the mother, suddenly arousing herself to animation. 

They were pleasant people very like the sort whose 
soup we ate at Pedriola. They asked me to stay the night 
(under the quilt, I suppose), and made me go up to the 
edge of the mattress on the floor so that the young wife 
might slowly take me in from the top of my hat to my 
shoes. She did this in silence, very solemnly: ee Sweet," 
she then murmured with a sigh, and went to sleep again, 
and I left with grandmother's blessings. 

In the afternoons I go visiting with Mile, and try to 
follow what seems one unbroken stream of conversation 
with no divisions for words in it. 

I have found you a nice present : a blue glass bracelet from 
one of the old tombs at Byblos. I am going to buy it next 
week, and one for myself too so that I may bear to part with 
the twin ! I looked at them the last time but was too poor; 
but now I have the delightful feeling of riches, thanks to 
Car's birthday present, which is to be turned all to delights. 

Dear P., not September. Couldn't you manage July 
in Asolo? Oh do. Your loving FREYA. 

35. To her Father in Canada, 

BRUMANA. 27.1.28. 

DEAREST PIPS, 

I have your card, and am sorry to hear of such cold. 
It will be good when the warm weather begins. We go 
nowhere near zero here, but the coldness indoors makes 
up for what is wanting in the elements. When there is a 
patch of sunlight alLis well, and I move myself, my chair, 
and grammar round my bedroom all morning from east 
to west in harmony with the sun. 

I wish you had been walking with me two days -ago: I 
was thinking of you all the time, for it was good exploring, 
just seeing the objective and making up your mind where 



52 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

the path might be to take you to it. I think you taught 
me to be quite fairly good at path-finding. Do you 
remember coming down on Casteldelfino in the mist? 
Here is clear enough weather; the obstacle is thorns. 
The gospel parables become vivid whenever one steps 
among them, and the only short cuts are wood-cutters' tracks 
which, once lost, are almost impossible to find again, and 
they are almost invisible even when you are on them. 
The people are full of friendliness and curiosity. I can't 
yet speak enough to get the best out of them, but they are 
very like our mountain people, even more hospitable, and 
with the same good manners, dignified and with no sense 
of inequality. None of the unpleasant class feeling here 
except as a European import from the towns. 

There have been a good many robberies lately. Four 
turkeys from our next door neighbour. Now a poor 
tailor who has had all he owned in the world carried off in 
the night. The Armenians are suspected "at a venture." 
No one likes them. They say " The Armenian drinks and 
then throws stones into the well." But there doesn't seem 
to be any evidence in this case. Now the police have 
found a button, and hope to trace the thief. Meanwhile 
a little factory has been robbed, and people are reported to 
be wandering about in motors at night, knocking at the 
doors of houses where there are lonely women, and then 
raiding them with their heads wrapped up and only their 
eyes showing a horrid shock. Mile, begs me to sleep 
with my window on to the road closed, as otherwise the 
chair which is propped against the front door every night 
has no reason d*tre. I should hate to see a white head 
with nothing but eyes climbing over the balustrade, so have 
had to comply. Do keep well, dearest Pips. I wish the 
winter were over and me going out already. Must I 
book a passage long before? Your own FREYA. 

36. To Mrs. Jeyes* 

BRUMANA. 30.1.28. 
DARLING VIVA, 

I have been warm, as far as my feet go, for the first 
time this winter, and all thanks to you. I can't tell you 



BRUMANA 53 

what grateful thoughts I send. It is really a comfort, 
besides the fact that everyone thinks my slippers the 
very latest thing for drawing-room wear. I have 
never been anywhere where it is more fun to have 
clothes : everyone is so interested in them, and if I put 
on a fresh hat on Sunday mornings, it is with the agree- 
able certainty that it is going to give pleasure to the 
whole congregation. 

When there is anything new, the etiquette is to shew it to 
all your visitors. To-day we paid a morning call to some 
people near by and were shewn, first, the new coat and 
shawl sent from sons in America; and next, the new W.C. 
We went in procession, husband, wife, daughter, son-in-law, 
and the chain was pulled with solemn pride only no 
waterworks followed. I rummaged among my adjectives 
for something suitable, and finally brought out "healthy" 
with what I consider creditable discrimination. 

I have been discussing Missions with my Quaker friend, 
Mr. Ghamoun, the Syrian headmaster. He is clever and 
charming. He asked me to a Committee of the "Seekers 
after Truth" at Mrs. Davidson's. I told him I am a 
seeker after truth, but not in committees^ and we began to 
talk. He says that the Missions, instead of being centres to 
produce native missionaries, manage to discourage every 
native development, and end by being just surrounded 
by a small clique of their own with no outside influence at 
all very much what Lawrence has to say about the British 
officials. One certainly feels here that the missionary 
mountain is very expensive for the production of its mole. 
And they are all such good painstaking people: just 
unimaginative, the trouble at the root of most misunder- 
standings. 

Did you know that camels in the evening bring bad 
luck? Eight of them came padding past our door at dusk 
as we came up the steps ; rolling along like waves in the 
half light. They have a very soft footfall, as if they were 
treading on dust. I don't think it is only my romantic 
mind that clothes them with mystery. Mile, told me of 
the ill omen and was reluctant even to pause and watch 
as they rolled by. We called to the Beduin (or she did) 
to ask whence they came, and were told Zahle, which is 



54 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

near the ridge we look at. I hope Venetia and I may get 
into their country. 

I find that Salehmy has been spreading wild undeserved 
descriptions of my brilliant Arabic and altogether unpre- 
cedented intelligence! It is all because I remember his 
dull grammar, of which he makes me learn two pages a 
day by heart; and also, I imagine, because the feminine 
standard is low. It is horrid to be looked upon as a Prodigy 
when one isn't, and to have the truth when I tell it all 
put down to modesty. 

Mile, told me to-day how she watched the Allies entering 
Beirut from her little balcony up here. There were two 
"Fregates," or three (she can't remember) : one was British, 
and the other French. The French flew an enormous 
flag, and the British waited to let her pass first into the 
harbour, right up against the quay: and Mile., looking 
through her glasses, realized that it was to be France in 
Syria after all. 

I am walking well now. In and out of five villages, and 
twice up and down the valley without complaining. It 
was a good five and a half hours, all sunshine and solitude 
with interludes of villages full of interest and hospitality. 
It is remarkable that not even the British here seem to walk, 
and they talk of anything across the valley as if quite out 
of reach of the human feet. Not only that, but my going 
alone seems to strike them as peculiar, though how to be 
avoided when there is no one to go with isn't clear. 

Your loving FREYA. 

37. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 2.2.28. 

DARLING B., 

Your smiling face is on my writing table such a 
lovely present. Thanks so much, dear B. It was a 
beautiful birthday surprise. 

I am just revelling in the pleasantness of having spent 
all I possess and I do nothing but remember fresh people 
who would like presents. We went to the weaving village. 
Alas, they get their silks from Europe now, though mul- 



BRUMANA 55 

berries are the chief crop here. They send the good 
yellow silk to France, and get the artificial stuff in 
exchange. 

We spent a morning in Beirut choosing a gramophone, 
and Mile, now spends her time listening to foxtrots. The 
missions disapprove, but here is Mr. Chamoun, head of 
the school, with five children dancing away, and Mile, 
starting the wicked practice in her own house. And it 
will be put down to me, wha had nothing to do 
with it. 

I called on Mrs. Satow. It was rather nice to find one- 
self in an English drawing-room unpervaded by prayer. 
She hadn't a good word for missions : told me they were 
mischievous, giving an education completely unsuited to 
the country, arrogant and narrow minded. She herself is 
a well-bred woman, looking as if the East had been a litdfe 
too much for the surface of her temper, but pleasant under- 
neath. She had little good to say of the Syrians: the 
rich beneath contempt. During the war, she told me, the 
Turks gave enough grain to keep everyone alive just 
and the rich Syrians kept it in their cellars and doled it 
out at high prices, mixed with gravel which used to be 
sold openly for this purpose in great heaps in the bazaars. 
(I couldn't help thinking that Piedmont hadn't been so 
very much better, but didn't say so.) 

The School has started evening classes for the village, 
much to the annoyance of poor Salehmy, whose only 
time for improving his own mind was the evening. He 
came yesterday, filled with annoyance and amusement 
because, instead of a rise in salary or an hour off in the 
daytime, Mr. Fox had merely added a special prayer on 
behalf of the evening teachers. All these rifts in the lute 
are coming to light as I am getting adopted by the Syrians ! 

We have had the Manasseh girls. They are quite 
pretty, and gay only they never polish their shoes, or 
brush their hats, or hide any safety-pins : which just shews 
that they really are not meant for European clothes. 

My dear love. Thanks for all the gossip. 

Your FREYA. 



56 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

38. To Mrs. Ernest Barker. 

BRUMANA. 2.2.28. 
DEAREST OLIVIA, 

The rain has set in now, coinciding rather happily 
with a blister on my foot: and the two combined keep 
me at grammar. It is quite amusing to get at it in the 
tortuous Eastern way, 

My poor Syrian gets so cross because I will ask questions, 
He has never done such a thing in his life, I am sure, 
and yesterday when I gave him a pencil and asked him to 
correct something % in the printed book, he looked as if 
Authority were sliding downhill before his very eyes. I 
am his first European pupil (feminine), and I believe 
inspire the pleasant pain that a hard scrubbing gives. 

I haven't been anywhere except for two good days in 
the country and a drive to the Dog River two walls of 
rock going up in grey tiers, a Roman aqueduct, and black 
goats on the narrow ledges, and the old writings of the 
Conquerors * where the rocks open out to the sea. We 
deciphered Marcus Aurelius, being good Roman prose, 
and left Saladin's rhymes as too difficult. A solitary 
asphodel, the only one yet out, was blossoming like an 
Elysian symbol below Sennacherib's tablet. 

The new gramophone is going for all it is worth and 
Mile, bending over it trying to catch the words of an 
improper French song she bought by mistake. Now whom 
does that remind you of ? 

Your affectionate FREYA. 

39. To her Father. 

BRUMANA. 2.2.28. 
DEAREST PIPS, 

When I tell you that I got a small electric shock 
last night from my own silk petticoat as I was slipping it 
over my head, I hope you will not think I am inventing. 
It was really like an explosion of pinpricks. It has been 
hot these two days : such a pleasure : the sea condensing into 



BRUMANA 57 

steam and then clouds, and now the rain has come and It 
is pouring steadily. It appears that after such a repertoire 
one must always expect hail. I am sorry for the misguided 
almond trees with white blossoms. The anemones I 
believe behave like lesser celandines and shut themselves 
up : there are carpets of them under the pines near Beirut. 

My master Salehrny and I are going through a regular 
minuet of politenesses. First he sent me two beccacde 
(is that snipe?) very good too. Then I invited him for 
a picnic with the Manassehs and Mile. Now he is giving 
a soiree to let me hear Arabic music. 

The picnic was a success. We zigzagged down to the 
plain feeling rather like an aeroplane on the verge of looping 
the loop, and ran along between sea and banana groves 
till we reached the pass of the conquering armies. They 
have all been along there. As a pass it is rather disappoint- 
ing not a very high defile, but steep and made of grey rock 
uncompromising enough, and the conquerors have left 
their stories in tablets that look small beside the flowing 
river and so much more ancient passage of Time. The 
Assyrians, bearded kings, have noses very like some of the 
present inhabitants. Then down through illegible Greek to 
M. Aurelius, Saladin, Napoleon and the British. All these 
very sober and plain. It only remained for the peculiar 
bad taste of the French to put the largest inscription of all 
with bronze and helmets and palms apparently for 
chasing poor King Feisul out of Damascus. I couldn't 
help remarking on it to Salehmy, who, being Maronite 
and pro-French, looked pained. 

We finished the day by going to the one Lebanon village 
where they weave: three little looms in a shed, and a 
shop over the way where the splendour of the East unrolls 
in dressing-gowns and terrible cushion covers. They are 
bad as soon as they leave the old Byzantine designs of 
cypresses and roses. We asked how they came to evolve 
the hideous European designs, and were told that "we 
know the leaves are green and the rest is easy." It was 
fun helping Salehmy to choose a wine-coloured gown with 
gold pyramids down its back to wear at parties. 

It is good to think of Spring, and then Summer. 

Your own FKEYA. 



58 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

40. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 5.2.28. 
DARLING B., 

I dined last night with the Fox's, and Miss Harvey, 
the secretary, and Mr. Edmunds, who teaches mathematics ; 
and it turned out that Mr. Fox conies froin Taunton and 
is a far removed cousin of ours in Torquay. Awful shock 
to find relatives in Syria! Mrs. Manasseh's cousin lives 
next door to the Whibleys : altogether I came home feeling 
suburban. Fearfully difficult, too, to talk simultaneously 
to the mission and laity, as represented by the Fox's and 
Mr. Edmunds. Mr. E. displays a healthy interest in walks 
and non-committal silence on religion. I don't think 
Mr. Fox approves of women who walk alone in the hills. 
When I told him of my nice lunch out of the wood-cutter's 
tummy-band, he looked very pensive. 

We have a lovely spring day again, and I wish my foot 
would heal. It is nothing, but the place is awkward 
because it rubs against the shoe; and I suppose we can't 
count on much good weather this month. Mrs. F. told 
me they had to be dug out of the snow two years ago : 
and snow actually fell in Beirut and so frightened the 
population that all the men took to their beds. 

Ever so much love to you both. 

Your FREYA. 

41. To Miss Buddicom. 

BRUMANA. 7,2.28. 
DEAREST VENETIA, 

I have been trying in vain to send you a wire. India, 
they say, is not a sufficient address. It was to say that I 
have heard at last from Baghdad and that it is definitely 
off so far as I am concerned. Ja'far is being sent as 
representative to London. I am not really sorry, for there 
are many things to be done nearer. There will be time 
to plan when you come. 

Meanwhile I hear you have to be inoculated for cholera 



BRUMANA 59 

before reaching Syria from Iraq : otherwise they do it on 
the border and may keep you five days outside Damascus. 

Vaccination I suppose you have a certificate for? Beirut 
full of smallpox just now. Brumana only measles so far. 
And I found my first flea this morning so that it really 
looks like summer, doesn't it? 

I have been hearing from people here about the ruined 
cities of Bashan. That was what turned my thoughts to 
Hauran. Delightful it is to have a little slice of World and 
Time to play with. Do you know Marvell? But then he 
says: 

"But at my back I always hear 
Time's winged chariot hurrying near. 
And yonder all before us lie 
Deserts of vast Eternity. 

"Let us roll all our strength and all 
Our sweetness up into one ball. 
And tear our pleasures with rough strife 
Through the iron gates of life." 

Which seems sensible, doesn't it? 
A rivederci, my dear. Bon voyage. 

Your FREYA. 



42. To Clarmont P. Skrine. 

BRUMANA. 7.2.28. 
N 
MY DEAR CLARMONT, 

I wonder if my letter to Birjand is still lying in some 
Persian hiding-place? Or whether f it followed you to 
India? Or whether you were not really in India at all 
when you sent me the picture? It has been giving me 
pleasure ever since it came. I don't think I shall ever see 
mountains enough to feel satisfied, and Nanga Parbat is 
the right sort, with a proper solidity, not the fancy work of 
the Dolomites that crumble into needles under the fingers 
of the climber. Lebanon is good also. There is one 
smooth snow ridge east of us, and a beautiful cone peak, 



60 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

rather like Fujiyama, south, and we are on a ridge. Beirut 
lies flat as a map 2,300 feet below with twinkling evening 
lights, far more beautiful than she can ever be to anyone 
actually inside her. 

It is so good to be out here at last, learning every day. 
I am getting at the Arabic through the tortuous ways of 
its own grammar, hoping that some day I may reach a 
country where the lovely classical is really used. Here 
they drop practically all the vowels, and have a tiresome 
habit of eliminating letters like q altogether. I had always 
suspected that one could live without minding p's and q's, 
but had never put it to the test ! 

The people are all charming to me. They are not 
really Eastern, nor anything : just a poor fringe of a people 
between Islam and the sea, doomed to be pawns in what- 
ever politics are played here. All who can, emigrate to 
America, and all the money in the country comes from 
there. I haven't yet come across one spark of national 
feeling: it is all sects and hatreds and religions. I -read 
the Maronite mass book the other day, and felt the prayer 
" to be saved from bloodshed " take on a particular meaning 
in this country of massacres. And it is a grand country, 
too. 

Write when you have time: I shall be homesick for 
Asia! 

Love from FREYA. 



43. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 8.2.28. 

DEAREST B., 

Yesterday was Salehmy's birthday and he invited us 
all to a musical evening. Such a quaint gathering on the 
best chairs raised velvet roses on a cream cotton back- 
ground with green velvet edgings round the outlines. 
There was the charming old mother with a kind wrinkled 
peasant face and beautiful eyes still young: and four 
nondescript men in tarbooshes gradually individualized as- 
Salehmy's brothers and nephews masons, shoemakers,. 
etc. : and a very pretty sister who teaches the convent 



BRUMANA 6l 

orphans French: and a tiny niece who also possesses the 
family eyes, as yet only capable of expressing vast depths of 
curiosity. It was borne in upon me that I was the guest of 
the evening; my words were listened to in an interested 
silence which their strangeness deserves, but which I find 
trying. It appears that Salehmy had written all round to 
say that the music was for my special benefit; and I was 
much vexed when the doctor, who hasn't any idea of 
reticence in any form, took advantage of a moment's 
silence at the banquet to thank me as the cause of this 
delightful evening! I had an absurd feeling as if it were 
a betrothal, or I were so to speak assisting at my own 
funeral: Salehmy's mother taking farewell of me with 
three embraces, and her son and his sister presenting me 
with large bouquets of white roses in the midst of the 
silent but appreciative audience! The banquet was really 
very well done : a long, long table full of all sorts of wonder- 
ful things carried bodily into the passage outside the guest- 
room, and tibfe family waited on us with charming dignified 
manners. They all know how to entertain here: no fuss, 
or effort. 

We had lute, violin, and singing. At some of the wilder 
outbursts, M. Alexandra's eye was upon me with a 
narquois expression, saying as plainly as possible: "Were 
you really telling die truth when you said you liked this?" 
I am reserving judgment till I hear it out of doors with its 
own proper setting. As for the dancing, even Nijinski could 
hardly overcome the difficulties of a prosaic blue serge 
suit, shoes that haven't been polished for weeks, and 
stockings three sizes too large : but these details don't seem 
to worry the audience here in the least. 

I have been reading Wells's latest. I think he has a 
second-rate mind and how dangerous to invite Literary 
Lions to one's house. I should think the H's will hesitate 
another time. 

Salehmy is making me read love poems, which I massacre. 
He sits and watches solemnly, except when the awful 
accents I give them rouse him to repressed frenzy. I 
can't pronounce the wretched "q", so that Love turns to 
"Thorns" in my version : I told him at last that was much 
the same meaning anyhow, and he now looks upon me as 



62 * LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

an authority on the ways of the heart ! I feel I am upsetting 
the village idea of the Average Englishwoman, so carefully 
built up by Quakers and Prayer, and am sorry, but what 
can I do. I don't think anyone believes me when I tell 
them that I am interested only in the grammar. 
Goodnight, dear B. 

Your FREYA. 



44. To Mrs. Jeyes. 

BRUMANA. 10.2.28. 

DARLING VIVA, 

I hope my birthday greeting will not go to you 
from a bed of measles. The Spring has started like your 
infantile essay cholera in Baghdad, smallpox in Damascus 
and Beirut, and measles here. The doctor, who is a dear, 
but irresponsible, invited us down the hill to walk with him. 
Miss Audi's weak heart disappears under excitement, and 
she came along in her high heels, and we motored by the 
mule track till the car really couldn't breast the obstacles. 
Then the doctor lost us in very pleasant terraces full of 
flowers and soft earth and finally we got to the village 
just below us really and found three sick children lying 
on their floor mattresses in the kitchen (very few here have 
beds). "Come in, come in," says the doctor, "and sit 
down," and only told us afterwards that it was measles. 

The doctor's visits take a long time, because he sits and 
tells over all the family affairs, hears the children read 
their French, and is generally adored. Did you know 
that red curtains to your windows and red shades to your 
light are good for measles? That was the only part of the 
prescription I happened to be listening to. I was glad 
to get out into the sun again. The cottages, however, 
are cleaner than most Italian ones I have seen. 

We are all supposed to be re-vaccinated and not allowed 
in Beirut without fresh certificates. Unfortunately, the 
doctor has lost the vaccine. His cousin told me in private 
this afternoon. Brumana still thinks the precious stuff is 
on its way from Palestine and would be annoyed to know 
that it is probably poisoning a ditch by the highway. 



BRUMANA 63 

The doctor's cousin,, Miss Bennington, has just come 
out from England and is very restive under what she calls 
"their slipshod ways". My Italian training comes in 
useful : I find myself quite placid under trial. The advan- 
tages of a Continental education! I have managed only 
one bath since I came, and have to wash in cold water 
every evening, and my room has nothing but pegs and a 
table and it is all quite bearable. But Miss B. thinks it 
heroic. 

Venetia wires she is not coming till i5th April, so I 
shall stay in Damascus first. Better address to the Consulate. 
I hear that Consul and Missionaries are all the British 
there, and the French are loathed, so I should get enough 
Arabic to speak. 

The world is all almond blossom and anemones, 

Your own FREYA. 

45. To Miss Buddicom. 

BRUMANA. 11.2.28. 

DEAREST VENETIA, 

Providence, or whatever inspired your telegram, does 
seem to be doing things for the best. April will be far 
better than March, and you will have heard by now that 
I am free as air. If you can be induced not to reach home 
till June, who knows but what we may pull off Rum after 
all. 

I go about xoth March to Damascus and will wait for 
you there or thereabouts. It seems a bad moment. The 
Christians and Moslems at loggerheads over a Danish 
pastor. But whether it is all Christians, or only the 
missionaries, I can't tell till I get there. 

I seem unable to get a Mohammedan lodging as I had 
hoped. All these things take time and time, and oh! 
how I wish I had a whole language, or even a good hal 
instead of the little bit of it I have to make grow. It 
really is the secret of travelling. The dullest country has 
a soul of some sort if you can know what its people are 
saying not only the words but the thoughts that make 
them. 



64 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

You will be amused. It appears that the theory here is 
that I am a spy for the British. I am entertained, and 
only hope that the same bright thought won't enter the 
French heads too and bother us while travelling. We shall 
be all right this side of Damascus, but probably find 
difficulties if we want to go south at all. 

Do remember the wash basin. 

At present one can pick up measles in any cottage, 
but that I hope will be over. 

My news is no news except grammar. I haven't read 
a book to call a book since I came, except Wells's romance 
of Mortola. I do think it is rather too bad to depict your 
hostess as a murderess and dedicate the book to her! 

Don't come a day later than April 15 or it will be too hot. 
The climate seems as unsafe as the Syrian dog: he comes 
wagging his tail and, when you pat him, bites your hand 
off. Mine was saved by my coat sleeve. 

Good it will be to see you. 

Your FREYA. 



46. To her Mother, 

t BRUMANA. 12.2.28. 

DEAREST B., 

We picnicked at Deir el Qal'a yesterday, an old 
temple to Jupiter of the Dancing Floor and some Phoenician 
god before him. It is high up on a spur, and the Phoenician 
blocks now enclose a small garden belonging to the Maronite 
monks. The almond flowers hang out over the old smooth 
stone, and there is a good snowy amphitheatre of hills 
standing well away across the valley. We saw a white 
tip, and Salehmy said Hermon, but people are Liars about 
topography. 

It was a very ill-assorted party : Miss Bennington normal 
British ; Mile, disposed to flirt with M. Alexandre who was 
placid but bored ; and Salehmy whose French is so peculiar. 
I found walking between him and Miss B. trying, acting as 
trait-d'union between what refuses to amalgamate. Mr. A. 
made a determined effort to walk back with us, but Mile* 
has all the obstinacy of the People of Feeling, and collared 



BRUMANA 65 

him. I should have liked less social talk, and time to 
wander among the old columns and lovely yellow stone. 
It is a great building country; the stone seems easy to 
work and hard; the colour of it simply delicious. We 
came back by the rough road, made out of sight of the 
coast by Turks for their guns ; a gun and some old trenches 
are still there below the monastery, derelict. 

Your own FREYA. 



47. To Lady Waller. 

BRUMANA. 12.2.28. 

DEAREST DOT, 

I wonder if you are going out to inhabit poor 
neglected TArma, which is longing for someone to enjoy 
its flowers? This should arrive for your birthday and 
bring you loving greetings. 

I get no time except for writing home. Four or five 
hours study a day, and the rest all talking! Now and then 
I get a good day with "sandwiches and the beauties of 
nature". I spend my time resisting kindness and advice. 
All here are charming, and anxious to prevent my being 
killed by some irritated Druse, but I feel if once I begin 
to do what I am told I shall very soon be carrying the 
donkey. Do you remember how we used to gallop our 
ponies to the very last minute and always have to creep 
in the back way not to be discovered? That is how I 
intend to treat my tiresome little body; the animal creature 
should be animated, says I, and not go its own lazy way. 

This Christian country is divided into fierce and veno- 
mous little sects. The Druses are dignified and keep 
whatever their religion may be very properly to themselves, 
ready to massacre the Others if the opportunity should 
come, but otherwise polite. 

What I find trying in a country which you do not under- 
stand and where you cannot speak, is that you can never 
be yourself \ You are English, or Christian, or Protestant, 
or anything but your individual you : and whatever you say 
or do is fitted to the label and burdened with whatever 
misdeeds (or good deeds) your predecessors may have 



66 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

committed. And then of course your sentences, intended 
with just the shade of meaning you desire, come out shorn 
of all accessories, quite useless for anything except the 
mere procuring of bread and butter. How glad I shall 
be when I can feel that the country is really mine, not 
the mere panorama to the stranger. Meanwhile the world 
is open. I feel that my seven years' patience is rewarded 
with Rebecca straightaway, and am very happy. 

Viva will have told you about the country. Its glorious 
great hills and snowy spaces. And the almond trees in 
blossom now. The people pleasant to meet; no future, 
and no grit out of which such things are made, but very- 
agreeable and many of them beautiful. One might say 
as much Italian again as Italy. 

Send me news of Thornworthy and all there. 

Your loving FREYA. 

48. To Herbert Young. 

BRUMANA. 16.2.28. 

MY DEAR HERBERT, 

Where are you? Rome, Mortola, London? It is 
hard to write when one can't imagine where one is talking 
to, and I suppose you will have heard my news wherever 
you may be. 

I am thriving on Curds and Christianity, or what goes 
for such (for this is a terribly good place). The Mission 
is, I believe, slowly recovering from its first delusion as 
to my being among the sheep, but they are all very land 
and full of help and advice for Damascus next month. 
But, sad to relate, all the Syrians seem secretly relieved 
to have someone non-missionary among them : I think they 
are overdone with these competitive religions. I have 
come to the conclusion that the only way to be a missionary 
is just to be a Christian and say no more about it; to do it 
this way by committees seems to me a horrible interference 
with rightful liberties. 

I think of beloved FArma wasting, its flowers. I wonder 
if you are there, and how things are? 

I am a little tired of being a mystery. To learn Arabic 



BRUMANA 67 

for pleasure is simply not done, and as I have no other 
reason to give, I get credit for marvellous secrecy : also for 
being either a novelist or a spy! I told my landlady about 
Ibn Saud's 1 73 wives, and this piece of true history has 
impressed her deeply with my knowledge of politics. It 
is all such fun. 

Loving wishes to all, 

Yours affectionately, FREYA. 

49. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 16.2.28. 
DARLING B., 

I think I shall number my letters, for I hear that 
many are lost in the censorship. I heard all sorts of tales 
from Mrs. Cruikshank yesterday. The doctor took me 
down to Beirut. I was firm with him and refused to go 
round and visit his patients and was rewarded by a com- 
fortable tea surrounded by old Damascus silver, and a 
pleasant hostess who wants me to spend a week-end later. 
The only trouble was that the hours were passing, supper- 
time coming on (theirs, mine had long gone by) and no 
one ever knows when the doctor will come back. I got 
up to go, but there is nowhere to go to in the wilds of 
Beirut. However, he came just in time, and after leaving 
me another half-hour on a starlit doorstep where I was 
able to watch six Syrians trying to pack themselves and 
one coffin into a taxi, we finally climbed up into a deluge 
from that pleasant warm climate down below. 

The store of wood has given out here, so we have nothing 
but the brazier: and Mile, so distressed I have to comfort 
her and pretend that I sit in my fur coat out of mere 
caprice. 

She will be pleased with your note to her. The 
Manassehs 5 I won't give, because you talk about their 
giving me advice., which is the one thing I am trying to 
discourage. I like to be helped, with as little advice 
as possible, for that seems to be exclusively composed of 
Better Note. 

The Manassehs are extremely kind. She is pretty and 



68 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

dresses nicely, rather absent-minded, fond of sketching, 
and placid enough to have survived in a gentle dreamy way 
through the unpunctual chaos of the doctor's life. 

Tell George the boxes arrived beautifully, and no duty 
to pay. Thank him so much in the name of my complexion. 

I am beginning to feel a little tired: my third month 
without a day off except Sundays and Xmas Day, and it is 
a strain to listen to a strange language. I find myself 
slipping into inertia and letting the words go by in an 
unintelligible stream. Salehmy also is getting inattentive, 
letting me go unchecked my ungrammatical way. He 
and Mile, and M. Alexandre want to come and see me in 
Damascus. I do enjoy seeing Mile, flirt a little; it is so 
good for her, and a natural form of exercise after all. 

I shall try and write to Herbert next. 

Your own FREYA. 



50. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 19.2.28. 
DEAREST B., 

I have just been to mass at the Greek Church, with 
four beautiful gold ikons to look at. I liked the service, 
what I could understand of it. The priest's scarlet cope 
and long black hair and beard look very eifective as he 
comes in and out from behind the screen where the Com- 
munion is celebrated. The singing is very clever: they 
replace the organ by a sustained humming louder than 
humming but yet not singing, varying between four and 
five notes and forming a sort of background to the voices 
of the chanters. The people are pleased if one goes to 
their service. I have now been to Maronite, Orthodox 
and Greek Catholic: on the whole I think I liked this 
Greek Orthodox best. I was amused to see in the Maronite 
mass that they pray for " our fathers, brothers and teachers,' 9 
a complete exclusion of our sex, you observe. To-day 
they were having a service for the dead, which we did 
not stay for, but I thought of Macugnaga, for there was a 
dish of sweets on a table in front of the altar screen and they 
were to be distributed in memory of the dead man. It 



BRUMANA 69 

must be a very old custom to have travelled so far as Monte 
Rosa. 

The priest from Aleppo and his sister came to spend 
the evening. You will be amused to hear that I was called 
upon to sing, and did so too with great success! Mile's 
refined little soul does not take to the priest and his sister, 
who are the Don Odoberto type, a little broad I imagine. 
I find it comforts her greatly to hear that the "hill" priests, 
which here is contrary to "town," are just as bad in Italy. 

Religion is a delicate point. Now that she realizes I 
don't want to turn people into Presbyterians, or anything 
else for that matter, it is all coming out : all the bottled- 
up feelings since the time when her brother turned Quaker 
and she came into contact with all the People who Think 
They Know Better : and never said anything, but just (I 
believe) hated them more and more. These people never 
contradict : they listen politely while the convinced mission- 
ary goes blundering on annoyed afterwards that they 
"turn round". But I believe the fact is that they don't 
ce turn round". They have simply never turned at all: 
only their politeness is never to say JV0 when an Englishman 
would say so : in fact to say Tes. 

Must stop now. 

Your loving FREYA. 



51. To Herbert Toung. 

BRUMANA. 19.2.28. 

MY DEAR HERBERT, 

What a lovely time you will be having in the garden 
now everything just beginning. Here also one feels 
the spring, though when the north wind blows it is like 
a blast of sheer ice. 

I regret more than ever that I was not properly and 
thoroughly brought up on the Bible. Who were the 
Amalekites and Hittites? And what happened in Bashan? 
The Hittites, I discover, lived north of us with their capital 
near Aleppo at a place called Kadesh, and they used to 
wear red shoes : the same as one still buys in Antioch no 
doubt. It is all good country if one were not so ignorant 



70 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

A feeling of intense age about it rather hopeless too. My 
beautiful snow ridge, Sannin, was once Hor not the 
Palestine one but a brother; and Byblos of the Giblites, 
who I believe used to make boats, is along the coast. This 
actual country belonged to the Amalekites: and that is 
as much Useful Information as I can give you to-day, 
except that I suppose the frequent blue eyes one meets 
must have been due to regrettable incidents during the 
crusades. There are a great many of them. 

I am glad you have the joy of a new Rolls. It is hard to 
be poor: I am always feeling it. All one has must go in 
luxuries, and the necessities must just be done without I 

Dear Herbert, how lovely to get back and sit in warm 
Asolo, beside the little Bacchus. 

Ever your FREYA. 

52. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 22.2.28. 

DARLING B., , 

It is the most infamous weather you can imagine, 
and unfortunate that the wood supply has given out. I 
sit in my furs, with every reserve of natural stoicism, and 
console myself by thinking of the Psalms, which seem 
peculiarly suited to this country: the same abrupt transi- 
tions, and everything done on a big scale : and the malignant 
suddenness with which storms sweep down out of a blue 
sky to overwhelm, is very like Jehovah at his worst. I 
am waiting for their pleasanter aspect in the Spring, and 
to hear the voice of the turtle dove : at present it is only 
the little yelping jackals, who go running about the valleys 
with a great noise as soon as the stars come out. When they 
bark much, it means clear frosty weather. 

Poor Mrs. Manasseh is nearly exhausted because two men 
came to her on Saturday and said that one of them was 
going to marry her cook next day. A pretty girl, and she 
had no particular wish to marry the man, who squints. 
Argument was vain, however, and as it was the last day 
before Lent and no marrying for two months, there was 
nothing for it: they spent a hectic day sewing the essential 



BRUMANA 71 

underwear: the bridegroom sent a white frock and old 
silver shoes : there were streams of relatives all day drinking 
coffee and eating cakes : and finally Mrs. Manasseh took 
the bride and bride's mother to the church at 8 p.m. on a 
gusty evening. The priest seemed to have forgotten all 
about it, and couldn't be found till someone had the bright 
idea of tolling the church bell for him. Luckily everyone 
carried a candle, SQ the ceremony was not performed in 
pitch darkness. Mrs. Manasseh returned exhausted to her 
cookless home, and is now being assisted by the bride's family, 
who are full of gratitude, and only ignorant of cookery. 

I have a letter from Mrs. Robertson, full of love and 
intelligence. She is a wonderful and dear person. 

Mr. Ghamoun came to examine my Arabic, and was 
quite pleased. He says he has noticed I say I know less 
than I really do: which Miss Audi corroborates with 
adjectives. I don't think this is true, but I suppose I try 
not to assume I know more, and it shows the value of 
understatement in principle. Agostino once told me that 
British diplomacy, when it merely speaks the truth, which 
happens quite frequently, is therefore credited with all 
the things it doesn't say I 

I shall be glad of a holiday. My first three months 
steady work after convalescing are about as much as I 
can manage, and I shall take it easy in Damascus. 

Salehmy has written a poem about our picnic. He 
compares us to "chaste gazelles". I forget the other 
adjectives, but if only you could see Miss B. and Mrs. 
Manasseh meandering over rocks; anything less like a 
gazelle! It is very funny. I wonder if I can resist the 
temptation of telling them. 

Your own FREYA. 



53. To her Father. 

BRUMANA. 23.2.28. 

DARLING PIPS, 

I hope you are a great deal wanner than I am/ 
We had an earthquake last night; quite slight, but 
enough to give a gyrating sensation to one's legs. It had 



72 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

been pouring all day (it still is) and we were sitting after 
supper, Mile., my teacher Salehmy and I, over our little 
green table by the fire when a noise came rushing along 
an inorganic sort of roar. I wish I had been paying more 
attention. I was not thinking, and only knew what it was 
from Mile's paralysed expression, and when I tried to get 
up found it quite difficult to move for less than a second 
because of the wobbliness of the room. I have often 
wondered whether I should be one of the people who say 
"Apres vous" in fires and shipwrecks. The truth is, I was 
half-way to the door to see if it would open, and then 
remembered Mile's chronic need of moral support and 
nobly waited to hold her hand into the passage. By this 
time everything was long over, and we devoted ourselves 
to eau de Cologne and ether for her fluttering nerves. I was 
so pleased to feel what sort of a movement it is. Only hope 
it does not mean any destruction somewhere round about. 
This is a disgusting climate in February. The wind is 
like ice, and handfuls of hail, thunder, lightning and rain 
are flung at us in the intervals. If we were not on a high 
hill and the soil all sand we should have been drowned long 
ago. When it is given a chance, the view is marvellous. 
The north wind turns the sea blue and green and the sun- 
sets fill it with delicate pastel reflections, and light up the 
hills and snow as if the door of a blazing furnace were 
opened on to them. The rock itself here has a great 
variety of colours. I found bright red stone, grey, black, 
yellow, pink. All lime I imagine, from the number of old 
kilns everywhere. There are millions of buried fossils, 
just like Mortola, so that one thinks of the Mediterranean 
more than ever as the pond where the world's infants first 
started playing pirates. 

Your own FREYA. 

54. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 26.2.28. 
DAR!ING B., 

First glimpses of sun to-day for a week. Rain, 
snow, thunder, all the time, and my room 5 centigrade, 



BRUMANA 73 

and the sitting-room 7. As we have so little wood we can 
only have a fire in the evening. The day before yesterday 
I threw up the sponge and went to bed to keep warm and 
spent such a happy day, and half the next day too. 
Oh blessed sun. I am going out now at last. 

Your FREYA. 

55. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 26.2.28. 
DARLING B., 

The last days of carnival were celebrated by one 
really satisfactory elopement to balance the sad wedding of 
the Manassehs' cook. It seems there was a very pretty 
young girl in the village, and she was loved by her poor 
young cousin and by a rich elderly man in Beit Meri. 
The father decided on the latter, and the thing was settled 
with the usual haste, and she was told to get ready to be 
married. But the young men of the village heard of it, 
and five or six of them came to the door while her father 
had gone for the bridegroom, and just as she had got 
through her bath and was only half dressed. They banged 
on the door, and asked her which she wanted, the young 
or the old one. "The young one," says she very properly. 
* e Then open the door." One of the youths hoisted her on 
his back and threw his coat over her* another followed 
with the slippers and a bundle of clothes : another went to 
find the bridegroom (who did not even know that the elderly 
marriage had been settled at all) . They found a priest and 
a motor car, and went off and got the marriage over before 
the parents came home. Salehmy told us all this last 
night, and seemed much surprised that I should approve 
of youth and poverty. 

I was going to meeting this morning, but met Miss B. 
and went for a walk instead, to enjoy the first sun and 
listen to her woes. It seems the doctor left her with his wife 
ill on her hands, and no wood in the house, and sent all 
the servants off for the afternoon, so that she had a stream 
of Arabic-speaking people to deal with at the door, and 
when he came back he found her in a state of acute exas- 
peration, clamouring for wood and servants. He merely 



74 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

said in his gentle way: "You are upset," took down a little 
book, and began reading out a long prayer. She gathered 
herself together and listened without a murmur, said 
thank you, and: "May I now have my wood, please?" 
But she came out in quite a venomous frame of mind ! 

I have written ... a peaceful sort of letter. Hope it 
does not have the same effect as the doctor's prayer. 

527.2.28. 

I nearly wept this morning when I woke to another 
fiendish day. Breakfast in bed has no charm when one has 
to wrap one's handkerchief round the knife handle so as not 
to be frozen. The good old man who lives an hour's 
walk down the valley and brings the wood up on his ancient 
back knew of our troubles, and came pattering up in inade- 
quate slippers under a load, wet to the bone : I have now 
brought the room to comparative comfort at 10 centigrade 
and succeeded in persuading Mile, to keep the door shut, 
and we do not stir from the house. It is just like Mortola 
rain, only this is its third week. Twenty-eight inches in 
three months is not bad for the sunny south. 

Yesterday was an interval, a lovely evening and starry 
night. I dined as usual on Sunday with the Fox's. It is a 
lovely walk in the moonlight : the ridge here so aloof that it 
seems you are looking down on the lower stars- The new 
moon very clear and frosty was throwing a bar of light 
behind Beirut, twinkling like a cluster of topazes down 
below, and the two lights made a wonderful contrast 
together. The moon seemed peculiar: not turned cither 
east or west but lying flat on her back, and if Herbert can 
explain this Syrian idiosyncracy (and please remember it 
was a teetotal missionary dinner with only cocoa after) I 
shall be very glad. 

I believe I am more approved of now that I go to Sunday 
meetings. Mr. Edmunds, who is a delightful young man 
with the merit of a nice profile and just about as incon- 
gruous here as I am, approves of me anyway. This is so 
satisfactory because I am suffering fromi the pinched 
expression peculiar to old age or a cold climate, and looking 
in the mirror I came to the conclusion that it must be my 
soul, since nothing else worth approving of is visible. And 



BRUMANA 75 

how nice to have the sort of soul that is liked by people 
with agreeable^profiles ! 

I had just written to Mrs. More when I read that the 
Wahabis are marching on Kuweit and a British boat sent 
to look after them : so they will be having a busy time. 

Poor Salehmy is getting so thin with the cold. He 
comes shivering every night. I offered him my waterproof 
to go down to the school to-night, but he assures me that 
all that matters is his tarboosh and he has gone through the 
deluge under a small umbrella. I have never known people 
who mind physical discomforts so little. I suppose when 
you are accustomed to being massacred, you don't trouble 
about the minor things. Even if it is pouring with rain, 
Mile, always has to remind Marie the maid to take her 
umbrella. She said to me to-day: "How do you manage 
in England through the long winter? I suppose you keep 
warm by always walking?" Visions of Napier, bedroom 
fires and curtains and carpets ! I gave up even the effort to 
describe. 

Ever your own FREYA. 

56. To her Mother, 

BRUMANA. 1.3,28. 

DARLING B., 

I felt in my bones your letter was coming to-day, 
and here it is such a good long one. 

The clothes sound lovely, and you tell me they will 
wash. That is indispensable, in case I go in third-class 
carriages or among the Beduin poor. As for the silk, I 
can't imagine ever wanting anything cool to wear any more. 

We are still alive, though wizened. Miss Audi thanked 
me to-day for suggesting the shutting of the sitting-room 
door, which has been open through all these winters till 
I came! 

On Sunday nights I get a good warm up at Mrs. Fox's 
fire before the meeting, and a hot cup of cocoa after : and 
then Mr. F. and Mr* Edmunds see me home. Who could 
refuse to pray when so sandwiched? As a matter of fact, 
I like Mr. Fox particularly and the Quaker hymn tunes 



J?6 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

are mostly good. It is only the inappropriateness to this 
civilization that I object to. * 

Mr. Edmunds lectured on Russia yesterday. He spent 
a year and a half there doing relief work, and it was 
pleasant for a change to listen to someone whose thoughts 
are well arranged with a thread running through them, 
and who has something to say and is not merely filling up 
thirty minutes with words. He has a taste for ideas, which 
is pleasant. I do like people who have not yet made up 
their minds about everything, who in fact are still receiving : 
taking up new impressions, and assimilating them, and 
adding bits to the philosophy one builds up for one's old 
age. That is youth really : not a matter of years. And 
to remember that other people are coming along too, 
building in new and different fashions; and to remain 
pleased with it all and keen, like dear Mrs. Robertson 
who never grows old. 

Mrs. Fox, by the way, must be a bit negligent or how 
could she let the young man go about with pockets that 
need darning so badly. 

Your own FREYA, 



57. To her Father. 

BRUMANA. 1.3.28. 

DARLING PIPS, 

We thought, we really did think, that we should wake 
up to a fine day this morning. When Marie told me it 
was snowing I thought it a joke. It was the Padre Eterno's 
joke, however, and we are still at it; everyone looking a 
little pale and worn. It would be all right if there were 
anywhere to get warm at all, but the sitting-room here, 
with fire and brazier, is only 8 centigrade : to-morrow our 
small wood supply is going to give out. All the goats are 
being hurried down from the higher villages. They are 
nice animals, mostly black, with curly horns and long 
droopy hair with a silky wave to it. There was one little 
kid skipping about in a world too cold for it, and they looked 
very fine coming down over the white hillside with goat- 



BRUMANA 77 

herds tramping behind in their red woollen swathings and 
headcloths tied round their caps for warmth. 

Even the gramophone has caught cold. It is Mile's 
newest treasure, and we had an anxious time over the 
noises it was making. But yesterday several experts came 
to call, and we held it over the brazier and allowed it to 
go round and round till it gradually recovered. Several 
cheerful young Syrians came and made a lemon ice which 
they all seemed to enjoy. I prefer dancing; anything to 
get warm. A knock at the door in the middle of it sent 
us all scuffling back to our places, for we thought it was 
the doctor, who would have been surprised and pained to 
see the headmaster pirouetting so gaily. 

The earthquake last week came in the midst of Mr. 
Edmunds' lecture : so suitable, as he was talking of Bolshe- 
viks: but they did not feel it much on the ground floor. 
It did a little damage in Palestine. 

Last night the poor hyena which lives in the valley 
apparently made its way into the street outside the butcher's 
shop. Salehmy put his head out of window and saw it 
surrounded by angry dogs, but when he got back with his 
revolver it had vanished. That is what he tells us. 

The French have just published a decree condemning 
a lot of Druse chiefs to death, or rather confirming their 
previous condemnation. They are all safe across the 
border, but it must be annoying, and I wish they had waited 
till V. and I are through our little tour. There is general 
animation, Wahibis in Iraq, and tribal affairs across 
Jordan. I begin to read the local papers and get much 
fun out of them. I spent a long time yesterday trying to 
make out two words in Arabic which turned out to be 
Sir Alfred Mond's name. The Baghdad students greeted 
him with such anti-Zionist demonstrations that 150 of 
them have been "sent down", 

I have not heard of my room in Damascus. The Pass 
is probably blocked, and no news coming through. The 
post to the higher villages here had to go on mule-back 
instead of by car to-day, and the ridge between us and 
Damascus is much higher. But the snow here will melt 
with two days' sun. 

So much love, dearest Pips. Your FREYA. 



78 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

58. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 3.3.28. 
DARLING B., 

We had an afternoon at the Ghamouns 5 yesterday 
to eat "Tabouli," a delicious salad made of ground corn, 
mint and parsley. You eat it out of a big dish in the 
middle of the table, using lettuce leaves and fingers to 
scoop it up with, I was offered a fork, but of course 
refused. I do feel a little sadder for it to-day; alas that 
experience will be paid for! 

It is still extremely cold, but sunny. Five of the school- 
boys down with pneumonia, and everyone looking slightly 
the worse : people creep out like beetles from their holes 
to whatever patch of sun is nearest. 

We are going to Jubcil to-morrow. I wanted to take 
the Ghamouns somewhere, and Miss B. and Mr. Edmunds 
have got added on and will no doubt amuse each other. 
Jubeil was Byblos Gebal of the Phoenicians, along the 
coast northwards. 

Yesterday I went to the Municipio to help in the vaccina- 
tion of the village. As it turned out, there was no help 
needed except the occasional buttoning up of some small 
infant; but it was very amusing to watch the various types 
so very various, blue eyes and black, from the rather 
loosely put together northern features to clear portraits 
from the old Assyrian: occasionally a streak of negro; 
occasionally good aquiline, I hope to see more of that in 
Damascus. There was much chaff; the doctor going on 
unmoved, scratching with his little knife his sooth leg 
or arm that day and disinfecting over a spirit lamp between 
each scratch. The local soldiery (who are really made use 
of in a great variety of ways) wrote out the certificates. 
Great giggles among the ladies, who do not like to exhibit 
their legs to a roomful of men : and I must say it was very 
public. An occasional outburst of wails from the infants, 
who usually, however, rolled up quite independently and 
very solemn, and mankged the whole affair by themselves, 
holding up their little sleeves with great gravity. The 
method of strengthening people by starvation and murder 



BRUMANA 79 

seems absurd, but there is no doubt it appears to work 
here. They are as hardy as can be. When you think of 
them as compared to Italy, it is like thinking of iron and 
earthenware: you feel these people are hard all through. 
I imagine that what is wrong with them is just what was 
wrong with their Phoenician ancestors: they have no 
imagination; therefore no ideals, or not sufficient to make 
them really do something. I am reading about Phoenicia, 
and it seems that all their genius went into practical things 
and manual execution. And so, in a degenerated way, it 
still goes on, and the Syrians spread over the world, 
America, Australia, no matter how far, making money and 
thinking about money. 

People are kind, and say they are sorry I am going. 
I am sorry too, and feel as if tearing up roots. What a 
dreadful disposition it is to get fond of people wherever 
one goes. 

Always your loving FREYA. 

59. To her Father. 

BRUMANA. 5.3.28. 

DEAREST PIPS, 

I cannot get to Damascus because there is still too 
much snow. The train goes, but it takes ten hours and 
no heating, and I have no news of my room. I have just 
been reading in the Arabic paper that if you get your 
ticket in two parts, interrupting the journey that is, to say, 
you pay twice as much for it. An unlucky traveller did 
this, expecting to be met half-way by a car: when he 
reached the junction, and found nothing but snow, he 
got into his train again and continued with a new ticket : 
and discovered this peculiar arrangement. I am only 
mentioning it because of Salehmy's and Mile's conclusions 
on the matter. Salehmy believes that the railway com- 
pany takes advantage of the absence of cars to make an 
extra profit. Mile, says that one's ticket would naturally 
be more expensive in bad weather. This, I imagine, is 
the Syrian's idea of law. Anyway, I have made up my 
mind to travel on a fine day. 



8o LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

It was a good day for Byblos yesterday. It is a small 
enough place now, on a low half circle of land between 
the hills and the sea, sloping gently. There was one sleepy 
bazaar street : one looks up at it through an arch, and they 
have had the happy thought to paint all their shutters a 
gentle turquoise blue, which gives to the whole street the 
dreaminess of water. There was a little portico close to 
the church, faded to delicious ochre and with a different 
moulding to each of its three arches ; crusading work, I 
thought, for one of the rolled mouldings was certainly 
Norman. I wish I knew more about these things. Miss B., 
however, informed us without knowing, which is quite 
entertaining if not taken seriously. I don't know enough 
to enjoy the bare bones of archaeology when there is no 
beauty to clothe them. The Phoenician graveyard looked 
so much like a rubbish heap. The huge sarcophagi are 
cut out of single blocks of stone, with monolithic lids and 
knobs sticking out of them (for the ropes I suppose), and 
they used to be lowered into the underground chambers 
on mounds of sand which was carried away in sackloads 
from under them so that their level gradually sank. They 
are impressive by sheer weight, but it is a cast-iron art 
after all and makes one, feel what an unpleasant people 
the Phoenicians must have been. The remains of their 
gods (or goddesses here) are just as repulsive, though there 
was a forlornness about them, the desolation of the passing 
of Time. There are four great trunks, broken off at the 
thighs, and roughly hewn in stone, standing facing the 
sea and the west with a stupid and pathetic obstinacy of a 
dead religion passed beyond all change. The outlines of 
the temple are still there among debris and weeds, eloquent 
to the eyes of the expert. 

The castle was much more human and cheerful, with a 
bridge and a moat (dry), guard room, banqueting hall, 
and secret passage to the sea all the objects one expects 
in a castle ; and narrow steps to climb, and a grass-grown 
roof for Sister Anne to walk on. Mr. Edmunds found his 
way to my heart by clambering about with the pure joy 
that every normal human being bught to take in battle- 
ments. Miss B. lingered, fabricating theories of most 
surprising incorrectness. The other two poor ladies had 



BRUMAJSTA 8l 

long ago sunk exhausted on a Phoenician block and were, 
I suspect, talking about food, for the lunch hour had long 
gone by. 

We wanted to lunch in the Banqueting Hall, where an 
ancient stone table was all ready propped on stone pillars : 
but the Syrian ladies had set their hearts on Adonis stream 
farther back along the coast. They found us a place with 
little tin tables near the river, in what they considered rural 
surroundings, just below the iron bridge and all among the 
empty bottles. Miss B. and Mr. Edmunds were frankly 
rebellious; Mr. Ghamoun and I held an intermediate 
position, trying to reconcile national prejudices. We felt 
it was the ladies' turn, after their forlorn morning ; and they 
were allowed to pull out forks and spoons and cups and 
arrange the most suburban meal, and murmur (in Arabic 
luckily) how lovely the view was till after lunch, and then 
we left them again and turned our backs on the road and 
all its horrors, and soon found Adonis flowing among 
clefts, clear green, a strong and lovely stream. It was very 
like good hill country. We wandered up the valley in 
warm sunlight, the river winding round corners, far down. 

We looked perpendicularly on it, and across at zigzag 
paths the other side, and houses and a tree or two against 
the skyline, incredibly steep. It is a barren country. Down 
below, just where an eighteenth century landscape painter 
would have put it, was a great ruin of an arch : Zenobia's, 
said Miss B., making the poor lady wander. We were 
really quite contented. I was at any rate. And Mr. 
Edmunds told us it was his first day of peace since his 
arrival last September, a terrible light on moral wear and 
tear among the Quakers. I found three red anemones : 
then we eked them out with the deep crimson poppies that 
stand in the grass along the lower reaches of the stream 
and climbed up on to the Roman bridge, which is the 
shape of a rainbow. We flung the flowers down and 
watched them float away like rubies in the sun on the 
green water, a lovely sight, and the first offering Adonis 
has had for a long time I expect. And it was pleasant 
to see the Syrian Headmaster of a Missionary School 
sacrificing to his ancestral gods. 

Before we got home the moon was hanging over us: 



82 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

very near it seemed, she rises so suddenly over these steep 
round hills. The road goes up through a deep-cut quarry, 
and we came out of blackness into the gentle light, the 
shining sea below. Beautiful world. Eternity does put 
on lovely garments. We were fifteen minutes late, and 
Mrs. Fox so painfully polite over it. 

Your loving FREYA. 

60. To Mrs. Jeyes* 

BRUMANA. 8.3.28. 

DEAREST VIVA, 

What an inspiration to send me Gertrude Bell. It 
is wonderful^ a breath of the world and its spaces. And 
I hope it will also be of great use. It has certainly given 
me more information than I can get here, for everyone is 
incredibly vague. 

Your letter came this morning, with the piece of ribbon 
most suitable to carry in my pocket and give away in bits 
in return for food and coffee. The others you mention 
were evidently too fascinating for the P.O,, and I have 
not received them. 

At last I have a Druse guide for April. The doctor was 
so obstinate about it, assuring me that a Christian was 
better. I felt convinced this was not so. And now the 
Christian has settled the matter by refusing to go into 
the Druse country, saying he would be killed. I am so 
much relieved. Now we have a man and mule and 
donkey, all for ioj. a day, and an itinerary marked out 
by the doctor. Imshallah, may it come about. 

I have got my room in Damascus. It doesn't sound too 
attractive, for the missionary lady says that my hostess "is 
a dear but grasping," and would I like my meals in my 
bedroom "as the men's table manners are so bad?" I 
shall try and put up with the manners for the sake of 
the accent* 

I saw a good castle on Sunday ; old yellow walls laid on 
great blocks without mortar Phoenician foundations. The 
Crusaders built up from them, jamming slices of pagan 
columns into their main walls. These round grey objects 



BRUMANA 83 

jutting out untidily from the yellow stone of the rest have a 
diseased look : quite suitable to the aimless tangle of the 
history of this land. 

Your loving FREYA. 

6 1. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 8.3.28. 
DARLING B., 

You will get all the news from the enclosed, so 
I can devote myself to the ecstasy of clothes. They really 
are adorable. Thank you ever so. What I have been 
longing for is little flounces. 

Mr. Napier's suggestion will not do. The one thing 
Consuls here are anxious to discourage is ladies travelling 
about and giving trouble. They do not like people to die 
out of their beds, and are always worrying about that. 

My lessons have come to an end. I have given Salehmy 
an Italian present, I hope it will please him. He has given 
me all my lesson books, and has now brought me an Arabic 
Life of St. Theresa, and the letter to the Druse prince. 

Your own FREYA. 

62. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 9.3.28. 

DARLING B., 

I will add a line as I forgot to post my letter 
yesterday, though there is no news except that Venetia 
now wires to suggest May. I have telegraphed to implore 
her to stick to April, for I must manage a fortnight's rest 
between the Druses and the journey home. 

The snow is hardly melting on the hills, and there are 
rumburs that the Damascus road is still impassable. The 
train goes through, however, 

A lot of exiles from the Druse revolt have just come home 
with wild welcomings in Damascus. The French are a 
good deal more liberal than the Italians in their censor- 
ship : the newspaper went into rhapsodies over these people 



84 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

"who had sacrificed all for the freedom of their country, 
and whose sacrifice will surely not be vain " So it 
said. Imagine anyone talking like that in an Italian 
paper. 

I seem to have caused an awful splash in the mission 
pond by carrying people off from their Sunday prayers. 
Possibly there will be another splash to-night, for Mr. 
Edmunds is coming to supper. Miss Audi's heart is already 
melting at the thought of Romance, which she transmutes 
very laudably into the menu. "Monsieur Edmond is 
very intelligent. Do you think he will like caramel 
pudding?" seems to be the gist of her conversation all 
to-day. I am getting our food and his virtues completely 
mixed. 

I called yesterday to say good-bye to Salehmy's mother 
and found a banquet prepared, a table heaped with good 
things. I find that the only way out is to seize on 
whatever is portable, and say you "will take it with 
you ". 

I have so many calls to pay. Four yesterday, and ended 
at the teacher's tea table at school. I had M. Alexandra 
on one side, Salehmy on the other, Mr. Edmunds opposite, 
and was thinking over the differences of the three races. 
In the middle of my meditations I found Mr. Chamoun's 
eye fixed on me with an expression of such intense amuse- 
ment, I would give something to know exactly what was 
passing through his mind. Perhaps he was thinking of 
Sunday. 

To-morrow some people from the Central Friends' 
Committee will be here and we arc all asked to tea and to 
see football after. Shall I wear my nicest frills? I do feel 
I have been good for so long. Luckily Mrs. Fox so approves 
of my respectable introductions that she swallows me as 
well. She only made the gentlest remark about Sundays 
in general, and has been really so kind : and I feel I must 
have been a trial, landing here from the blue without 
knowing a soul: and everything I do, the most ordinary 
things that everybody does in any sensible place, gives 
them electric shocks all round. 

Next letter from Damascus, I hope. 

Your own FREYA. 



BRUMANA 85 

63. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 11.3.28. 
DARLING B., 

This is my last letter from Brumana till May, and 
I am feeling so depressed, like a waif starting off into the 
unknown again, now that I have been settled here so long. 
Everything seems to have swelled itself out too, like a pony 
when you saddle it, so that I can't be contained in my 
boxes. 

The guide however is found, and his name is Najm star 
surely a good omen. He is middle-aged, sturdy, with 
lively brown eyes, a moustache with a twist to it, and a 
red sash round his middle: and he promises to see to us, 
body and soul, till we are safe through the Druse country: 
and will show us all the old castles and the modern ruins 
by the way. May it go smoothly! 

I had a pleasant day yesterday with charming Mr. 
Edmunds, who turned his back in a lovely blue coat with 
brass buttons on all the Sunday ceremonies and came 
wandering. He is good at the walking, only he had never 
been off a road before, and discovered with surprise that 
Lebanon paths are stony. Somehow we got enticed off the 
path, too, and descended over ledges down to the river, 
sliding down rocks of a torrent bed along the path of the 
waterfalls ; it was very creditable, for he didn't just set 
his teeth and bear it, but I believe quite enjoyed it and 
talked of mountaineering in Italy. I enjoyed talking like a 
human being again after nearly four months' starvation; 
I suddenly realized how long it had been! We had egg 
sandwiches beside the stream rushing green water now, 
and no skipping over stepping stones like last time. 

We found a real tree, not merely a pine, and sat in shade, 
and watched an eagle turning its great flat head slowly in 
the sun and, after a long time, flapping across the valley 
over our heads. The river is a long way down: we were 
made excessively aware of it by having to rush up the hill at 
speed so that he might be back by five and we did it 
with one minute to spare, but my heart was pounding like 
a hammer all night : I must be getting old. The old wood- 



86 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

cutter who came through the rain was ill : we passed his 
cottage and stopped for a drink of water and found him 
lying on a mattress beside his earthenware stove, but 
quite cheerful. Nice old man. Two goatherds, also, we 
talked to ; they looked so well in their old red jackets and 
muffled up heads among the black browsing goats and 
speckled shadows. One of them came up with the first 
black kidling in the crook of his arm, born that day, a little 
leggy anatomy, soft as silk. 
I must finish off the packing. 

Your own FREYA. 



3. FIRST VISIT TO DAMASCUS. LETTERS 6489 

Telling of a month at Damascus, where the writer stayed 
in a native household in the Moslem quarter^ and was much 
hampered by ill-health due to insanitary conditions. After 
three weeks' convalescence in Brumana she is joined by her 
friend Venetia Buddicom^ whose acquaintance the reader 
has already made in the course of this correspondence. 

) 

64. To her Father. 

TRAIN TO DAMASCUS. 14.3.28. 
DEAREST PIPS, 

The snow is still heavy on the Pass and we are 
crawling towards it at an incredibly slow pace: it takes 
nine and a half hours for less than a hundred miles. I have 
a Syrian family with me : we spend the time eating : last 
station they dashed out for "leban," the milky cheese: 
this station it is onions. My Arabic is working well. They 
have just been telling the only French lady in the carriage 
that everyone in England speaks Arabic. 

We are zigzagging up on a cog-wheel over stony hills, 
and all the olive stretches left between us and the sea. 
The country is terraced and bare now, its reddish earth 
lovely with blue shadows and ribbons of melting snow. 
People who want conversation stroll along the boards out- 
side the carriages and look in at the windows. The sun is 
getting very hot already: it is the good 'burning sun of the 
hills up here. I have seen the first black Beduin tents 
pitched among poppies in the fields. 

Later. 

We are down across the ridge now in the flat valley 
between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon : Hermon S.E. of us, 
looking less like a mountain than like the gentle culmination 
of his long ridge. It is good to see flat roofs instead of the 
horrid red tiles. And good to see people ploughing, and 
wide stretches of browny-green earth where corn grows, 
and poplar groves round the villages, A broad pebbly 



88 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

river-bed winds south: it might be Italy, only there is a 
camel. What an absurd silhouette they have! There 
seems to be little enough water about, but it is evidently 
a good soil for vines : they are not propped up, but 
stretched out flat with their branches outspread, like 
corpses on a battlefield, row upon row head downwards 
on the slopes. 

At the top of the Pass, where there was a lot of snow, 
I saw a tank, its little gun and all complete, being used 
to clear the road : and another one further down. There 
was great snowballing at the stations. The passengers have 
kept reserves of snow to throw at unsuspecting labourers 
down here in the plain. The Syrian lady has just told me 
that she was blocked on the Pass seven years ago : the train 
could go neither back nor forth, and all the passengers had 
to spend six days in the little station building, for there 
is no village up there. 

The party has got out now. Affectionate farewells. I 
thought we should be set alight in the long tunnel: we 
spent the time burning matches and dropping them casually 
about; when the little boy of three joined in the game 
I was really afraid for the woodwork. The Oriental 
attitude to women has been coming out very plainly. 
The poor little daughter could do nothing right; sit down; 
get up; don't do this: don't do that. But the son was 
allowed to slap his father's face and we all thought that a 
great joke. 

We are now getting to the valley of the Barada : fantastic 
country. I will tell you from Damascus. 

Did I tell you I saw an army of storks the other day, 
flying towards Turkey? Your FREYA, 



65. To her Mother. 

DAMASCUS. HOUSE OF KHAUL *AiD, BAB TUMA. 

15.3.28. 

DARLING B., 

I haven't been out yet, but the East has been 
coming home to me quite busily. Imagine one of those 



DAMASCUS 89 

little backyards in Venice as the entrance to my home. 
You climb up rather rickety stairs, through the lower litter 
of garments, saucepans, old shoes, and flower-pots to a 
pleasant room with seven windows; where, unless you are 
extremely careful, everyone can see you while you dress. 
I really think the bed is all right : I didn't at first, but have 
come to the conclusion it is only the greyness of home 
washing. I have found nothing alive anyway: in fact 
what I complain of is that everything smells as if it were 
dead. The children's clothes were bundled out of my 
room, and various necessities like jugs, towels, mirror, rug, 
brought in at intervals while I sat rather dismal on the 
bed. That has a lovely yellow quilt and two long hard 
bolsters. I do manage to get hot water in the morning. 
But there are so many smells. 

I had breakfast with the family this morning and felt 
how much I am still fettered to the lusts of the flesh. 
Madame seems to dress in the eating-room and we had 
to hunt for our food among her toilet things ; all the debris 
was thrown into a hole in the floor close by where the milk 
is standing. We sit round the primus stove beside the 
washing-up bucket, and I tried to anchor my mind on the 
fact that nothing much besides old age can happen to the 
inside of a boiled egg. 

There is father, mother, aunt, and three girls the only 
ones to know any English in the family, and jolly children. 
They asked me to join the evening circle last night, and 
we sat in a bedroom with every window closed and received 
two callers, a chauffeur and a policeman, whom I thought 
objectionable. I wonder if I am getting fussy ? The land- 
lady is pretty and looks tired : her name is Rose : she is at 
this moment blacking her eyes at my mirror; and she uses 
my powder, which I do so dislike. If she did not wear 
incredibly sloppy European clothes she would be quite 
ornamental. There is no particular sort of privacy here, 
except that the men are out of the way most of the time. 
It will be splendid for my Arabic, and I believe I can 
stand it. The best of it is a roof to walk about on and 
look at the other roofs, and the minarets and the red hills. 
The desert comes close; just red rock, not a shimmer of 
grass on it: the cultivated land washes up to it like a 



90 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

wave and stops as suddenly. It gives one the feeling of 
being in prison. 

Later. 

I have been out with Sitt Rose, and discovered a 
European side to the town, tramlines, avenues and shops : 
it is what they are proud of, of course. 

I found Mr. P., the Vice-Consul, in that district. He 
was evidently so very pleased to have a new English person 
to talk to, but I did not like him very much. He has 
invited me to dinner, and to go walking, but I hardly 
think I shall do so. He does not know a single Syrian 
here. He thinks it impossible I should stay in my native 
lodging, but says there is no alternative except hotels. 

The gardens of Damascus will soon be covered in fine 
dust. It has been blowing about all morning, squalls 
coming down from Hermon. 

I was so glad of letters. I have been feeling a little 
depressed. 

Your most loving FREYA. 

66. To Lady Horlick, now Lady (Francis) Oppenheimer. 

DAMASCUS. 1 7.3.28. 

DEAR LADY HORLIGK, 

This wobbly letter is from a bed of sickness in 
Damascus : not a long one I hope, for *I think of being 
active again in a day or two. The prospect of being ill in 
a native household is too terrible, 

I only came two days ago. A wonderful journey down 
the Barada valley ; it is just a green strip between desert 
walls of red rock, as mad and fantastic as the landscape of 
dreams. You can take one stride from the rich garden 
land into the desolation. The valley suddenly opened, and 
there in the afternoon sun was Damascus, yellow as an 
opal, the river running through between straight banks like 
a willow-pattern plate. There is the exact description in 
Chaucer somewhere, of Simois "like an arrow clere" 
flowing through Troy, and I thought of it as I came along, 
and before the railway station turned the East to mere 
untidiness. 



DAMASCUS QI 

If I feel strong I hope to make journeys from here. It 
is all a question of food : you offend people if you refuse 
their hospitality, and you die (or I should) if you accept 
it. Perhaps you die in either case: I have not tried 
offending a Druse ! 

I have been introduced to a delightful Moslem Sheikh 
who will hew me Damascus free from tourists. He is part 
owner of the most beautiful house in the city and belongs 
to an old family of Albanian Turks who became Arabicised 
about four generations ago. I admired his good manners, 
for he came to call and was welcomed into my bedroom by 
the assembled family before my Arabic could rise to the 
occasion before I had time for anything except to clutch 
the nearest dressing-gown. He sat talking with charming 
equanimity, though I am sure it is not the usual way in 
which to be introduced to a Moslem. 

I was not able to reach Baghdad after all. Ja'far Pasha, 
who invited me, resigned, and is now sent as Minister 
to London. 

I hope you will be somewhere near Venice in the 
summer? England seems far away. 

My love to Betsan and much love and remembrance 
to you from 

FREYA STARK. 



67. To Mrs. Aidan Thompson, 

DAMASCUS. 17.3.28. 

DEAREST P., 

I am in Damascus. It is a wonderful fact but 
I really am. Not however quite as I had expected, for I 
sickened as I came and after two days trying to bear up 
against my own inside and the first shock of life in a 
native household, I went to bed and sent for the English 
doctor. 

I have no cupboard or drawer in my room, and the 
three children and my hostess sit on everything all day 
long so you can imagine the chaos, me lying forlorn in 
very unbecoming pyjamas and no powder on my nose, 
when the aristocratic young Mohammedan to whom I have 



Q2 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

an introduction walks upstairs. Of course my Arabic was 
inadequate for keeping him out, and my hostess flung the 
door wide and greeted him with the pretty Arabic welcome 
and no hesitation at all. I had to make the best of it, 
grabbing a stray garment and pretending to be happy. 
I always seem to receive my Moslems in these unorthodox 
ways : and such a handsome young man too. I have to try 
and get up for tea in his garden to-morrow, and will try 
to look respectable. We could not offer even coffee, for 
it is still Ramadan, and he would not even smoke. He 
is one of the chief landowners here and owns many Druse 
and Moslem villages, and practises with his uncle as a 
doctor. Most of the men of the family are condemned to 
death and escaped out of the country, but he was out of 
the trouble in the Sudan and does not enter into politics 
now. I hope I shall be fit to enjoy life, for he suggests 
devoting his afternoons to showing me the real East and a 
better East I rather think than my present impressions! 

Some day I will upset your hygienic soul by telling you 
exactly how one's meals are cooked here. To my immense 
relief I am ordered only milk and eggs and biscuits till I 
get back to civilized Lebanon. Otherwise I can bear it. 
I pour my bath water (which is a basin) outside my bed- 
room door and it trickles somewhere into the blue through 
a crack in the floor : the sanitation isn't worse than old- 
fashioned Italy: and the family all wash on Saturdays, 
even their hair. My bed is fundamentally clean, and I have 
seven windows to my room, two carved chairs, and one 
divan to make up for the want of everything else. And they 
are all kind and friendly, and bring me flowers, and talk 
with a pretty lilt that rises like the cadence to a song at the 
end of every sentence and is peculiar to Damascus. I must 
say that when I came the first night, and simply curled up 
with the results of Syrian food, and wandered up through 
all the smells to my revolting meal, I felt the abyss of woe. 
Do you know what a horrid sensation it is when everything 
you touch wants cleaning? The sun here must be a very 
powerful disinfectant. The three children are rather 
nice, and they are the only things in the house that don't 
look and smell as if they had died long ago. 

Your loving FREYA. 



DAMASCUS 93 

68. To her Mother. 

DAMASCUS. 17.3.28. 
DARLING B., 

It is very annoying. I have been quite upset and 
ill. I tried to think it was imagination, but finally sent 
for the English doctor. Wonderful nation -we are! He 
never asked a question, but gave me a prescription, talked 
about food (and well he might) to the lady of the house, 
and went. I was just longing for a little bit of moral 
comfort and felt this rather chilly. But I am glad it is 
nothing requiring energetic attention. I shall be all 
right living on leban and eggs. 

My room is quite nice and quiet in itself, and the sun 
comes in. I get a cypress tree and bits of roof, and the 
children bring me flowers. The landlady comes to borrow 
stamps and envelopes. It is a relief not to have to see my 
food as it is being prepared; the leban looks tolerably 
white when I get it. Such a relief to have the doctor's 
authority for refusing everything else. I feel that it is 
rather hard on the poor people that their first European 
should be such a trouble. They are very obliging in 
their casual way. They come offering me raw salads 
to chew in bed as if I were a rabbit in a cage. 

Luckily I got some books from the Mission. I dragged 
myself there to tea yesterday, but it was stuffy. They 
have a really charming house, painted rooms with mirrors 
let into the walls, and painted wooden ceilings : like good 
Venetian baroque. The court is paved with coloured 
marbles, and there is a red and white marble tank among 
lemon trees : at one side is a raised summer room they call 
the dar, open on one side, with divans and a table. 

I will delay my letters a little so that when they reach 
you you will know I am all right. 

Your FREYA. 



94 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

69. To her Mother. 

DAMASCUS. 18.3.28. 
DARLING B., 

I am up again, languid but much better. I had 
to send a -wire to V. (who has put off her coining till May) 
and reached the very edges of exasperation at the slowness. 
When the old man began reading my postcards before 
sticking the stamps on (with a queue of people waiting) , 
I snatched them from him and gave a general shock to 
Oriental feelings. 

To-day is Sunday and the family is fearfully smart: 
you would not have known them. 

I have been wandering by Saladin's tomb, in a little 
garden of oranges and blossoming almond, with a marble 
fountain. My Sheikh took me, discussing religion. He 
likes me so much for not being a missionary. He told 
me that they do no harm because so far as he knew they 
have never succeeded in converting a Moslem: so that's 
that. 

Your loving FREYA. 

70. To Miss Buddicom. 

DAMASCUS. 18.3.28. 
DEAREST VENETIA, 

I hope there may be no more telegrams, for it means 
an hour of irritation in this country to get them off. I 
have wired " Come May". It can't be helped but it is sad ! 
It would be poor fun for you, however, to have me sick 
among the Druses, and I am rather uncertain of my own 
strength. 

I don't like my landlady here. She borrows my soap, 
and whenever we are out together, she gets into a carriage 
which I have to pay for: and I dislike carriages anyway, 
because you never see anything but the coachman's back. 
The trouble with travellers and this includes missionaries 
is that they come into contact with only the third or fourth 
rate people, and that gives no impression of any country. 



DAMASCUS 95 

I am not going to say that my present family are typical 
Damascus. 

I have been to see some charming Mohammedans: a 
young doctor and his sister (dressed in the latest French and 
beautifully shingled). Their brother-in-law is a great 
Nationalist, and was asked to speak to our legislators on 
the Near East problems. The doctor took me out after 
the call to look at Damascus outspread at our feet, its 
groves of blossom stretching away to the hills in the sunset. 
He swept his arm round one'side of the landscape and said : 
"This belongs to my family." It is wonderful rich land, 
irrigated by the seven rivers, which lose themselves in 
swamps full of duck and wild boars : all round are low 
volcanic hills. In spite of dust, noise, tawdriness, ugliness 
of detail, there is a magic : not to be understood in a day 
or even two! 

You won't put off your coming after May ist, will you? 
If I hurry to Lebanon and do not find you, I shall say 
things, besides being brokenhearted. 

Your loving FREYA. 

71. To her Father in Canada. 

DAMASCUS. 19.3.28. 

DEAREST PIPS, 

No news from you at the consulate, and I am so 
anxious. 

It is not all joy living with a native family. Meals, for 
instance, are a trial : I am given a fork, but otherwise one 
dips one's bread in the dish, and eats the most deadly food 
swimming in every variety of fat. In the evenings we 
sit in one of the bedrooms and hand round the hubble- 
bubble. I have avoided that, however. My thoughts in 
fact are beginning to concentrate quite morbidly on all 
the things I might avoid. 

What you would enjoy is sketching in the bazaars. I 
thought them rather tawdry at first, with corrugated iron 
roofs riddled with bullet holes of two years ago and filled 
with semi-European shoddiness. But to-day I found my 
way into the Arabian Nights, and it was very lifelike : sitting 



96 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

on the ledges of the little open shops and buying silks 
which the merchant in his long gown spreads out before 
me, while the merchants opposite, squatting in their little 
shops, click their beads through their fingers like rosaries, 
and look at the rival transaction. The Moslem ladies 
have to lift their black veils so as to see the stuff they 
want to buy: you see them bending over, with one hand 
to the veil and the other holding up the garment for inspec- 
tion: or trotting around with a bazaar porter behind 
them, a pile of packages on his head, just as the story 
has it. 

The men are of many types : fair hill people ; the real 
Assyrian; every degree of brown and black; Beduins in 
rags, swinging their rough cloaks with big strides, their 
dingy little tattooed womenfolk behind them; and many 
blue eyes with long noses and narrow foreheads, and a tired 
look about them as if life or the climate were too much for 
them: and perhaps it is. But there are fine rosy children 
about. Donkeys with panniers jostle in the crowd (some- 
times with skins of oil, not at all pleasant to be near). 
Camels in long lines. Occasionally a splendid horse, with 
red and yellow trappings. And all in a half light, for the 
bazaars are roofed over, and the shops open on to them like 
dolls 5 houses about two feet off the ground or like a row 
of boxes at the theatre. 

I was much amused to see horses and donkeys clipped 
in patterns their hindquarters arranged in lozenges and 
all sorts of delicate designs, according to the village they 
come from, says my sheikh. 

My Sheikh took me about this afternoon, looking so well 
in his flowing gold and brown cloak that comes from Ibn 
Saud and the desert. We went through the narrowest 
back streets, arched over their own shadows, with slits of 
daylight dropping down on them like swords. They are 
like Liguria in a* way, only the colour is different, baked 
to a creamy yellow. The flat roofs are just yellow mud 
solidified, delicious in tone; and there are delightful bits 
of black or red stone, or blue tiles here and there. It is 
extraordinary how little civilized beauty there is : nothing 
like the surprises and delights of any small Italian town* 
It is just a charm made up of sunlight and age. 



DAMASCUS 97 

A great piece of the town is still in ruins after the bom- 
bardment: such desolation: a whole district practically 
razed. The English are rather unfair, however, in saying 
they were not given warning: it seems that they were 
told beforehand, only as there had been two warnings 
already, and nothing to follow, they paid no attention. 
And now they say the shooting began without their know- 
ing. So the missionaries tell me. I saw a poor little French 
lady trying to buy a blue ribbon for her baby, looking so 
forlorn among the strange hostile people. I offered her 
my Arabic (which begins to carry me nicely), and she 
was grateful : and I felt how horrid it must be to belong 
to an army of occupation. The suburbs as I came along 
the Barada valley are still all in ruins, and the place full of 
troops. 

Your loving FREYA. 

72. To her Mother. 

DAMASCUS. 20.3.28. 

DARLING B., 

B.B., whom I hadn't seen since Villa Trento, came 
through yesterday on her way to Teheran. I went to their 
hotel after dinner, and felt so overcome by the people 
there that I returned actually with relief to my own slum. 
B. and a friend want to go to Persia to take cinema pictures. 
Another friend was with them and remains a week in 
Damascus an interesting young thing and very pretty. 
She is a Bahist, and staying with the Bahists at Haifa, the 
grandchildren of the Beha and present heads of the sect. 
She had a letter to one of the brothers here. When I came 
back to my room this afternoon I was surprised (slightly, 
for I am getting hardened) by seeing a man completely 
black sitting close to my washbasin. This" turned out 
to be her friend, and she was there too, and the whole 
Rose family much interested but not pleased at this 
intimacy with Moslems. The Bahist was so charming 
that his blackness didn't matter : he only speaks Arabic, the 
flowery kind: I felt my replies were dreadfully matter of 
fact. 



98 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

He has taken the young Bahist into his house and 
given her a beautiful clean room with food all to herself 
(for he and his wife can't eat in Ramadan), and she says 
she is going to be happy. How I wish I could leave the 
Christians and go there too. I am to call on Thursday. 
He is a tanner, and his name is Abd er Rahman or Servant 
of the Merciful : and he lives beside the Khan of the Melons, 
which is as near as you get to an address in Damascus. He 
-was delighted when I mentioned Prof. E. G. Browne's name, 
and knew all about him. He was really a charming old 
man : I hope I shall see more of him. 

Earlier in the afternoon, just as I was resting, Sitt Rose 
walked in with two Christian law students who came 
-quite unasked to pay me a visit and whom I found very 
trying. I do dislike never knowing who is going to walk 
into my bedroom next. I was beginning to feel that 
perhaps I was fussy, but the expression of my Bahist her 
name is Rosamund Wise as she looked round, reassured 
me on that head. I think I shall make it a rule to avoid 
missionary recommendations in future. 

Ramadan has just ended at sunset. Such a business in 
the bazaars, shopping for the feast. It lasts three days. 
We went on to the roof to hear the muezzin : it is extraordin- 
arily moving, voice after voice ringing out from the high 
steeples to declare the greatness of God to the people below. 
The flat roofs of course give a wonderful advantage to the 
minarets. God is the Master here: not the Comrade and 
Teacher of our churches that stand clustered amid their flock. 

Your loving FREYA. 

73. To her Mother. 

DAMASCUS. 51.3.28. 
DARLING B.> 

So cold again. The sun is hot and the wind icy, 
-and I slept with Viva's rug inside my bed, all the windows 
shut, and a hot bottle. 

The older lady has just been in to tell me tactfully that 
Moslems are not to be trusted. "Even if a Moslem smells 
like musk, do not put him into your pocket" was what 



DAMASCUS 99 

she said. None of the people in this house smell like musk 
anyway. I have heard the same proverb quoted against 
Armenians. In fact I imagine it is useful in this country 
where everyone is against everybody. 

I have been lazy this morning. First getting my knapsack 
ready in hopes of departing next week : and then sitting 
on the roof in the sun watching the domes, and the hills, 
and the beautiful cloud shadows, and Hermon's snowy 
shoulder. The light is lovely, so pure and brilliant: 
one feels it here as St. Augustine saw it, "that Queen of 
colours 5 '. There is nothing on these naked hills to inter- 
fere with its lovely play, and they change like water with 
the reflections of the sky. 

We are going to see the entry of the Vizir : then I shall 
go for a country walk. 

Yesterday I was asked if I was Arabic. It was only on 
the strength of two words, but imagine my joy. 

Your own FREYA. 

74. To her Mother. 

DAMASCUS* 27.3.28. 

DARLING B., 

I am going to get up to-day and try to get out. I 
seem much better and hope to be well by the end of the 
week but I fear the donkey trip will have to be given up. 
It is heartbreaking, everything being propitious except my 
own self. I shall see if I can manage some small things 
from here, taking it easy with motors : but all the really 
interesting things can only be reached by riding and 
camping. 

A kind American lady came yesterday and brought me 
soup : the first food I could eat with anything like pleasure 
these twelve days. I lapped it up, and was then prayed 
over, which was also kind and made me feel rather like 
the Deserving Poor. I thought it very nice of her, for my 
own missionaries who have got me into this house have 
neglected me completely, except for a few invitations to 
prayer meetings which are quite inappropriate when one 
is in bed with dysentery. 



100 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

It is at last beginning to be warm. My room was 
17 yesterday, and the terrace in the sun 27. But it is a 
climate full of tricks. 

Perhaps you will realize the depths of my abasement 
when I tell you that last night I woke with the most violent 
irritation spreading all up my arms. "Ah," says I, "this 
is what is the matter with me ! I have measles, or smallpox, 
or something." I turned on the light, and saw bites. 
" Is that all? " said I, and went to sleep again. To this am 
I reduced. 

As a matter of fact I have not had any creatures so far. 
But the American lady depressed me, for she says that 
they come to you if you stay in bed ; I saw in my mind a 
picture of long crawling lines drawing near over all the 
flat roofs of Damascus. 

Cook's book just come. Thank you both so much. 
Oli how sick I am at the loss of my lovely trip. I have 
asked if I can meet Mr. Edmunds by car, and perhaps see 
one or two of the most accessible Hauran cities : but what 
a way of doing it! 

I have just had a letter from Salehmy, really rather a 
touching letter, written with much care, and making 
me feel that my own was fearfully inadequate, Arabic 
is the grand language for pretty speeches. 

Your own FREYA. 



75. To her Mother. 

DAMASCUS, i April 28. 
DARLING B., 

This was intended to be posted to-day so as to 
reach you for your birthday with all my loving wishes, 
but I am again in bed, and so will keep it till I can send a 
satisfactory report. It is nothing serious, only as soon as 
I eat or move the trouble returns. How I wish one could 
do without eating in this world! 

I had tea at the Mission yesterday, but did not go for 
a walk as intended, feeling too ill. I do find those ladies 
too suffocating. Even the young ones seem to have all 
natural interest in life and buoyancy taken out of them 



DAMASCUS 101 

and think of nothing but their own narrow little bit of 
path of (self) righteousness. I have to use so much self- 
control not to say wrong things all the time, and even 
so they look on me as world and flesh if not actually 
devil. 

They suffer from stagnation of the brain, and that surely 
produces stagnation of the soul in time. To feel, and 
think, and learn learn always : surely that is being alive 
and young in the real sense. And most people seem to 
want to stagnate when they reach middle age. I hope 
I shall not become so, resenting ideas that are not my 
ideas, and seeing the world with all its changes and growth 
as a series of congealed formulas. When one sees even 
these young things with everything clearly immovable in 
compartments in their rudimentary minds, it is really 
depressing. They are not even like the busts on the 
Pincio, who at least had been uomini vivi before they 
were dead. 

Well well. Good-bye. 

Your loving FREYA. 

76. To her Mother. 

DAMASCUS. 2.4.28. 

DARLING B., 

I am much better again to-day, and hope to be 
quite well by the end of the week. I was able to be out 
this morning and enjoy my walk through Damascus 
slums, trying to find the "four great gates ". I had an 
adventure which might really make the mission hair 
stand up, and gave me a nasty qualm. I fell into it 
because it was so like the Arabian Nights. An old man 
with a venerable beard came up as I was strolling along 
with my camera, and said, just as anyone would expect : 
"Follow me, oh lady, and I will show you a beautiful 
place." So I followed. He told me it was an ancient 
bath, unused I supposed : and turned down a very narrow 
dark passage 'which went below the level of the street. I 
did hesitate, but he said "Have no fear, 35 and it is not so 
easy as it seems to change one's course when once started. 



102 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

We came to a heavy studded door, on which he knocked : 
ten centuries dropped from me by magic: I should not 
have been at all surprised to see the Caliph and his two 
companions on the other side! The door was opened 
from the inside, and there was a great vaulted hall, lighted 
from a window in the roof, and with a cistern of flowing 
water in the centre. There were alcoves with carpets on a 
raised platform round three sides, and various men lying 
about on them with their heads wrapped in turbans and 
nothing much except their big bath wraps on. I did feel 
I was not in at all a suitable place! They gathered round 
me in an instant. Then I heard the door clank to behind 
me with a horrid sound as if a chain were dropped. 

I had an unpleasant sensation as if my heart were 
falling literally a sinking of the heart in fact but I did 
remain outwardly calm; only I put my back against the 
wall so as to face them. I said to the old man : ee Oh my 
father, wilt thou hold my gloves while I take the picture?" 
and got my camera ready with complete disregard to the 
rules of photography. They had all come up so close to 
me and I thought them a villainous-looking crowd. Some- 
one murmured to the old man: "French?" "English," 
said I hastily: ""we are your people's friends." This had 
an extraordinarily soothing effect on the atmosphere. I 
asked if they would mind moving away from me for the 
picture, which they did in silence. When I had taken it 
I thanked the man who seemed master of the bath and 
turned to my old man to have the door unfastened : this 
also was done in complete silence, but just as I was stepping 
out two or three of them asked me to turn back and look 
over the baths. This you may imagine I did not do. I 
was very glad to have that door open, though I suppose it 
was all really quite all right. I wish now I had taken the 
picture with more care, for I don't imagine any European 
has been in that particular place before. I am not men- 
tioning this episode here, for as it is I am being almost 
shadowed by the family, who are evidently fearfully 
anxious. Think of it! My landlady has never in all her 
life been even into the Great Mosque. 

I finished the morning calling on my Bahist friends, 
and found the mother and her little girls. Such a nice 



DAMASCUS 103 

woman. I gave Viva's ribbon to the little black girls 
and they were pleased. 

My Sheikh has taken me over the Great Mosque a 
wonderful, beautiful place to pray in. It was almost 
as St. Marco for its atmosphere of peace. It is immense. 
There is a great court, and portico of yellow marble, big as 
a piazza and bathed in light, and you come into the twilight 
under long rows of pillars dwindling away, in a beautiful 
simplicity of unbroken walls. The richness and colour 
is in the carpets. All the detail is lovely: the Imam's 
niches, doors, pulpit, worked in marble and mother of 
pearl, and old blue tiles outside under the columns: but 
the general effect is absolutely simple; there is nothing 
to take the eye or the thoughts away. The people wander 
in to pray, or talk quietly. All the political plots were 
hatched here. There are low platforms, where they read 
the Koran, swaying backwards and forwards as they chant 
it in a low voice. In one corner there is a marble basin 
with flowing water. And there is a pleasant silence, 
since everyone goes barefoot on the soft carpets. I should 
like to spend hours there : and the Sheikh says no one would 
trouble me if I did so. 

If I go on improving so rapidly I shall take a day follow- 
ing Barada which is Abana to where he loses himself 
in his desert lake not far away. 

Mr. Edmunds told me he would be here about the 8th, 
but I have had no word since, and it is tiresome for it keeps 
me here in uncertainty. 

My dear love to you. 

Your FREYA. 



77, To her Mother. 

DAMASCUS. 4.4.28. 

DARLING B., 

Do you know that my living here comes to less than 
6s. a day, and I am so rich I don't know what to do with 
myself. My Sheikh won't let me spend it on motors for a 
day or two as he is afraid of its shaking me too much, 
It has really been useful to have a slight attack of dysentery, 



104 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

for I have learnt a lot about its treatment, and especially 
about the injection to cure it, which I shall never be without 
now in places of this sort. 

Yesterday we did no sight-seeing, but went up to Salahiye 
my Sheikh and I to look at Damascus in the sunset 
her gardens getting greener day by day in the plain below. 
We met his cousin, H.E. Hakki Bey, a charming old man 
who was governor here four years ago. Chairs and coffee 
were brought us all out in the open country, very pleasant. 
Two other gentlemen joined. His Excellency is going 
to Europe this year, and I asked him to come and see us 
if he goes by Venice. These well-bred Moslems are very 
agreeable, and just as easy to get on with as well-bred 
people the world over. Of course, one cannot become 
intimate unless one knows enough of their civilization to 
be able to see from their angle. If you think what we 
would be if we lost all our Latin and Greek roots together 
with their derivations, and substituted quite a different 
culture which most Europeans know only by name, you 
will see that one does not need a great divergence of char- 
acter to explain the difficulty of understanding between 
East and West I don't believe there is any more funda- 
mental reason why one should not know a Syrian as 
intimately as anyone else who is not of one's own race. 
Another cause for misunderstanding is that the foreigner 
usually meets the lower classes here. All the people I 
would have met through the English in Damascus are small 
shopkeepers, or that sort. 

I have most illuminating times discussing religion and 
politics with my Sheikh, and he talks quite freely, finding 
me interested. I told him that I have long thought of 
Mohammedanism as one form of Protestantism and far 
nearer to the spirit of Protestanism than the debased forms 
of Christianity here : and he seemed rather to like the idea. 
When he talks about such things his eyes light up, and he 
is quite different from his ordinary polite conversation. 

He is convinced that the Koran is superior to the Bible, 
just as he is convinced that Arabic poetry is superior to the 
literatures of Europe. This is all interesting in someone 
who has been in the hands of the missionaries for the whole 
of his education. In fact I can't help feeling that my 



DAMASCUS 105 

casual conversations are doing more for making an atmos- 
phere of understanding than all their efforts put together, 
but this may be vanity. I do believe, however, that if 
they can only missionise among the lower classes they 
can do no good. Unless they can influence the sort of 
people who are going to govern and teach and generally 
run the country, they will never get any real influence 
at all. 

I told my Sheikh about their alarms and warnings 
as to walking alone, much to his amusement: "I suppose 
they are afraid of being eaten by Moslems," said he. I 
asked him whether the Christians were disliked in Damascus. 
"Oh no,'* he said, "they never interfere, so we do not 
mind them." He tells me that the veiling of women is 
not a law but merely custom; the' Koran permits one 
to shew face, hands and ankles. Miss H. here, while 
begging me not to visit alone at Moslem houses, said: 
"What can you feel about a religion where women are so 
degraded they cannot shew their faces ? " So there you are. 

As to politics, it is just as well not to say very much 
about them. I will tell you later. Miss Azm, the sister, 
told me a sad tale the other day of an agitated lady during 
the bombardment who was trying to hide her money, but in 
the distraction of the moment clutched the gold to her 
bosom and threw the baby down the well. I am not 
pro-French, but really felt that the High Commissioner 
couldn't be blamed for this. M. Ponsot, by the way, is here 
since yesterday, and the place is full of French officers. 
The Azms are invited to the reception, but not going. 

Your own FREYA. 



78. To her Mother. 

DAMASCUS. 54.28. 

DARLING B., 

Both your letters came together to-day the first 
since those I found on arrival; something queer must 
happen en route. Anyway I was very glad to get them. 

You will know by now that I am all right again, only 
vexed at the slowness of convalescing. I had thought 



106 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

of the hotel myself long ago, but the doctor advised me 
against it, now that my diet is reduced to leban. He 
says I am better here, where the people are kind, though 
casual. I begin to eat a little now, but only the very 
simplest things. If it were not that I don't know whether 
Mr. Edmunds is coming on the 8th or not, and have no 
means of getting at him to let him know, I should get out 
of the town altogether and recover at once in the country. 
If ever I live in an Eastern town again, I shall take just a 
room, and do my own cooking; I am sure that is the safest. 
I am much relieved at a really cheerful letter from Pips. 
He is out pruning trees and does not want me till autumn. 
I was getting so worried about him. I hope you keep 
him supplied with books. I write when I can, but these 
days spend so much time sleeping : and I am at the mercy of 
anyone wandering in. Yesterday it was the two lodgers 
upstairs, and no one ever knocks! Even the cats push 
my door open to steal the dinner. I take credit to myself 
for not having yet seriously lost my temper, or at least not 
shewn that I lost it ! ! ! 

Your own FREYA. 

79. To Mrs. Jeyes. 

DAMASCUS. 5.4.28. 
DEAREST VIVA, 

I am so vexed at not having written all this while, 
thinking you would be travelling. 

I am in love with the Enchanted City. It is nothing but 
a big oasis ringed with dead volcanoes of the desert. The 
streams rush into it and lose themselves eastward in the 
sand. Now it is all surrounded by young green leaves 
and fields of beans in flower or springing corn. 

To-morrow my Sheikh, and his sister whose name is 
Handmaid of Allah, and Shahir his brother, and perhaps 
Brigand the retriever and the guns, are all going out with 
me, and we are going to try and find some ruins near the 
desert lakes. They are on my map, but no one seems to 
know much about them, and it rather depends if the country 
is such as the Ford can manage without a road. I have 
discovered a nice old chauffeur who is rather like a ruin 



DAMASCUS 107 

himself,, but takes his rattling old box over anything: 
there is an emancipated feeling with a car that will wander 
over cornfields : it ceases to be a machine. 

I felt too weak for Arabic these weeks and have been 
enjoying a return to my native language, reading about 
the Druse massacres in 1860. I had no idea what a bloody 
affair it was, not unlike Gawnpore except that it was the 
men and not the women who were slaughtered: the 
Druses will let the women go, and those who were killed 
were killed by the Turks. They ended with a Moslem 
massacre of Christians here, and the total altogether was 
over 11,000 dead, and would have been more but for one 
of the chief Moslems who succeeded in saving thousands 
of Christians. I expect you know all this, but here it 
comes with great vividness, when one sees the actual sort 
of crowds that were engaged. The other day I saw a 
French coloured regiment marching through the town 
with band playing, and was watching the people as they 
turned to look back at it, and could not help seeing that they 
looked very much as if they would like to begin again. 
I must keep off politics however. 

You will have had my news in Asolo, and have heard 
that I am. being well looked after by swarms of missionary 
ladies who keep on telling me what I MUSTN'T ... I have 
obstinately continued to consort with Mohammedans, 
and this has caused a slight coolness. It seems that the 
Mohammedans spit at them but they do nothing so 
unpleasant to me, and the only people I have ever had to 
snub are Christians! 

It is a leisurely land. Everyone has time to talk, every- 
one is ready to be interested: it is only when you want 
to get anything done that you begin to be unhappy. To 
buy a dressing-gown is pure Romance. You sit on the 
ledge of a little shop and the merchant spreads his wares : 
an audience gathers, and advises: the money-changer 
comes along to help. Then you bargain. You are told 
that the thought of profit does not enter with One whose 
face is like the Moon: whereupon you offer half. Then 
the diplomatic merchant says that he knows you are "a 
daughter of the Arabs": and who would refuse him 
anything after that? 



108 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

I am not learning much Arabic here, but a great deal 
about Oriental life in general. Next week I shall learn 
nothing at all, for an Englishman from Brumana is to be 
here, and I shall just have a holiday and abandon my 
Sheikh. And I wonder if that will please the Mission 
any more? It is a kind dispensation that there should 
be so many pleasant people in Asia. 

Ever your own FREYA. 

80. To Miss Penelope Ker. 

DAMASCUS. 7.4.28. 

DEAREST PEN, 

P. will have told you that I foolishly picked up a 
malady that has left me tired. The riding will have to be 
given up not so much because of riding in itself, but 
because I could not carry sufficient water, and Druse 
wells are all more or less poison. 

Yesterday was a wonderful day: for I discovered the 
Desert! 

One must not believe people when they tell you things. 
They told me I could not see desert unless I went to Palmyra 
which is too far this time. I looked at the map, however, 
and decided on a lonely ruin marked where the Damascus 
streams lose themselves in lakes, and the villages end. 
Nothing beyond but names of hills and water-places and 
the Road of the Raiders trailing away South to the lands 
beyond Jordan. My Moslem friends came with me 
bringing their guns, which we had to hide whenever 
police came in sight. The pretty sister wears a t black 
veil over her face, but she throws it back in the country. 

Such a road ! It was sandy and smooth at first, running 
through avenues of walnut just coming into leaf, and the 
green corn on either hand. Then we began to wade 
streams, water well up to the axles : then on to banks at 
absurd angles. We began to meet Beduin: their black 
tents were dotted here and there. The country got 
poorer, the corn thin and uneven, the trees stopped. For 
some time there would still be a clump of shade by the 
villages then nothing just the mud walls baked yellow 



DAMASCUS log 

sloping up one of the strange solitary little hills that rise 
out of all this country like dolphins 9 backs. 

When we reached the last village we had an affair to 
get a guide : they were all afraid we should abandon them 
in the wilderness. My.Sheikh told me he sometimes has 
to take them by force, and once a man threw himself out 
of the car and nearly killed himself. Luckily persuasion 
did it this time. We were taken along a road that melted 
into invisibility, then found ourselves on hard sand, thorns 
and desert rushes brushing against the wheels. The 
country looked white like chalk here, all gentle lines and 
travelling shadows; and, half lost in distance, a glimmer 
of snow from Hermon, and the Damascus hills. 

And then the wonder happened! Camels appeared on 
our left hand: first a few here and there, then more and 
more, till the whole herd came browsing along, five hundred 
or more. I got out and went among them to photograph. 
The two Beduin leaders, dressed gorgeously, perched high 
up and swinging slowly with the movement of their beasts, 
shouted out to me, but the Beduin Arabic is beyond me. 
I can't tell you what a wonderful sight it was : as if one 
were suddenly in the very morning of the world among the 
people of Abraham or Jacob. The great gentle creatures 
came browsing and moving and pausing, rolling gently 
over the landscape like a brown wave just a little browner 
than the desert that carried it. Their huge legs rose up 
all round me like columns ; the foals were frisking about : 
the herdsmen rode here and there. I stood in a kind of 
ecstasy among them. It seemed as if they were not so 
much moving as flowing along, with something indescrib- 
ably fresh and peaceful and free about it all, as if the 
struggle of all these thousands of years had never been, 
since first they started wandering. I never imagined that 
my first sight of the desert would come with such a shock 
of beauty and enslave me right away. But I left it feeling 
that somehow, some time, I must see more of the great 
spaces. 

We had much more during the day. Shooting by the 
lake: losing our guide: then a really adventurous bit of 
cross-country motoring, as it were over heather, only here 
it was a kind of wormwood with a strong aromatic scent. 



110 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

We found an old ruin surrounded by some poor Arab 
graves and Emptiness all about. The wind howled down 
so that one could scarce stand outside the lee of the wall : 
. there was no water visible anywhere, except the brackish 
whiteness of the lake in the distance : and no tree in sight : 
nothing to break the horizon except the sudden weird 
little hills. The nearer landscape was brown like heather, 
though here it was really the colour of the hard soil shewing 
through scrubby little plants. Here and there there were 
heaps of stones, possibly old walls and houses, but quite 
indistinguishable. 

Let me hear from you in Brumana. And love to you 
both always from 

FREYA. 



81. To her Father. 

DAMASCUS. 7.4.28. 

DEAREST PIPS, 

I had my first whole day out yesterday for a long 
time : and a good day too, nine and a half hours motoring 
or walking, and the motor was the harder exercise. We 
didn't bother about roads, but went into the scrubby 
desert. All the chauffeur drew the line at was marshes, 
and when we came to a hill full of loose boulders, very 
like Wild Tor, it was we who refused to allow him to 
attempt it, and got out and walked. 

My friends are splendid at picnics. The Handmaid of 
Allah sees to the lunch-basket. The two boys bring their 
guns and the dog. We made for the lake : " The Little Sea 
of Hijane" is its name, and there are lots of duck but 
not a rush to hide behind. We found no duck, however: 
indeed it was only by collaring a guide at Hijane village 
that we found the lake, for it is an hour without a road 
and the white water hardly shews in the white soil. I 
don't quite know what the trouble was with the guide. 
He was a wild-looking fellow with an old military coat 
looted off a German and a ragged white muffler round his 
face held on with one of those black camelhair fillets which 
seem to be clapped on at any angle and never slip off. 



DAMASCUS III 

My Sheikh didn't seem over-confident, for he told me in his 
crisp English: "This man will not play tricks, for if he 
does I will beat him. And now when we leave the car I 
will see if he has a revolver. a J As the poor man was only one 
to five I did not feel much alarm. But as we were walking 
to the lake, the Handmaid of Allah murmured to her 
brother: "Would it not be better to make the guide walk 
in front?" and went on to tell me that her cousin had been 
killed by having his guide behind him a Druse too and 
an ally during the rebellion. 

The lake is shallow and there were flocks of white birds 
with slender wings, so beautiful, Shahir flung himself into 
the water to the waist, forgetting this world and the next 
in his eagerness. They shot them flying high, their wings 
catching the sun. I did wish they could escape. When 
one came down the others hovered over the place of its 
fall with a sweet shrill song. It seemed a great shame. 
We got also thirteen small partridges and another desert 
bird. Both the men are excellent shots and fearfully 
excited over it: and one does feel in this country that a 
gun is a useful object. 

We came near to the village again on our way to my 
ruin, and here the guide deserted. I don't know what 
happened, for I wasn't attending till I heard the Sheikh 
call him an Animal, and a Creeping Creature, and saw 
him stalking off with great dignity. They wouldn't tell 
me what it was about, but I noticed we took the back 
road round the village on our way home. 

What with the map and the desert road we thought we 
could find the ruin for ourselves. The road is just a bit of 
wilderness cleared of scrub and marked with two lines of 
stones like a diminished Dartmoor Avenue. In fact the 
feeling of the landscape was very like Dartmoor, before 
the- heather shews anything but brown. The place of the 
Tors is taken by sudden little volcanic mounds Tells 
thick as mushrooms. We saw our citadel from far away 
on lop of one of them : and it went on being far away. A 
horrid barren wind began to blow, lashing furiously. 
We made across country, going gingerly, for there were 
rushes and we didn't want to stick with nothing but the 
inhabitants of an unfriendly village anywhere near. 



112 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

At last we came to the ruin and climbed up over the 
stones, and had lunch in its shelter. The others were all 
disappointed, for there was not an inscription nor anything 
of special interest. But I was happy enough. There was 
enough for the imagination; the old fort quite square, 
built of solid black stones without mortar; an entrance 
opening to one large central room, and four smaller rooms 
on either side. It cannot have been more than one story 
high, and outside was a rubble of stones out of which 
wandering Beduins had built a number of rough graves, 
like Druid circles. You looked out on to a great space, 
treeless, free as air. At the back the Raiders' Road 
"so called from its insecurity" my guide book says runs 
invisibly between its dotted stones into the waste lands. 
I wondered what the Roman garrison thought of it, and 
whether they used to grow their salads and tomatoes on 
the sunny side of the hill, and how they lived. Our own 
lunch got covered with sand as fast as we could eat it, but 
it was good. I was glad of my fur coat. In Damascus 
the temperature has been 20 centigrade in the shade all this 
time. Never shall I travel in the East without a big coat 
at any season. 

I tried to get pictures, but there was little sun. The 
villages are a delicious colour, baked like the ground they 
are built on, all low walls, and no windows to speak of. 
The women were all out on the bare space outside the 
villages making solid dung cakes and piling them in the 
sun for winter fuel. It is all they can get except for some 
gnarled roots we saw being carried in on donkeys from the 
desert, a long way out. 

I think you had better write to Asolo after you get this. 

Your loving FREYA. 

82. To her Mother. 

DAMASCUS. Monday, 9.4.28. 
DARLING B., 

I had just given up Mr. Edmunds and made up my 
mind for a lovely four days' trip towards Leja and Bashan, 
when I got news of him, aggravatingly saying he will come 



DAMASCUS 113 

either to-morrow or Thursday apparently oblivious that I 
may want to do something besides wait for his charming 
presence. I suppose it is not bad for my health to be quiet, 
though so dull. I can't tell you how bored I am with the 
poems of Browning, and I have read through the whole of 
Dante. He, Mr. E., does not tell me how he arrives, so I 
can't meet him and he will have to go and ask for me at the 
mission; and I can't order a room for him at the hotel 
without knowing the day : and I wonder if it is exactly 
correct for him to stay here? These niceties are beyond 
me. 

My landlady has come with an astonishing request. 
She wants me to let her know whether there is anywhere 
in Italy where Yvonne, the child of fourteen, could be 
trained as a nurse, and what the conditions are? I 
wonder if you could find out? Nurses are sadly wanted 
here, and I suppose Yvonne might learn to eat with a fork 
and to wash at more regular intervals. She is a nice child, 
and some sort of regular training might be the making of 
her. Poor people ! My landlady told me she was married 
at thirteen and had to learn everything afterwards. The 
trouble is that she thinks she has learnt everything! She 
asked me if I thought the Consul would send friends of 
his here as lodgers. I can see them trying to dismember 
their luncheons with a teaspoon and pocket-knife! 

LATER. 

I have had a long visit from my Sheikh, very excited 
over a tragedy that happened about a fortnight since. 
An American girl was living at a school kept here by an 
elderly Russian lady, who seems rather wanting in scruple. 
My friends had been kind to this girl, introduced her to 
a cousin of theirs whose wife shewed her all sorts of kind- 
ness and hospitality and often had her in the house. She 
has now run off with the cousin, and he has written to say 
he is divorcing his wife, and the whole family is to be broken 
up. The Russian lady seems a peculiar sort of head- 
mistress: she used to invite the French officers to dance 
and drink champagne with her Mohammedan pupils! 
and apparently knew all that was going on in this affair. 
It is rather disgusting. A few such things might explain. 



114 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

a lot of anti-European feeling. I told the story to Sitt 
Marie, the Aunt here, and got the unexpected conclusion 
from her that "this comes of dealing with Moslems". t When 
I said that this was probably just what they were thinking 
about the Christians, she looked at me with sorrow. But 
she is a genuine Christian, and loves me with the tenderness 
reserved for straying goatlets. 

I am learning how necessary it is to keep one's own 
standards and one's national standards for one's own use, 
and not to judge other people by them. My Sheikh said : 
"When we thought this Russian teacher was not what 
we had imagined her to be, we set spies on her among the 
servants, and they saw terrible things (with a wave of the 
hand quite beyond words) through the keyhole V 

Another thing I have noticed is the absolute lack of all 
historical sense among these people. No perspective. 
What happened five hundred years ago has the exact 
vividness of yesterday. It came upon me with a shock when 
a child here was reading out some of the more gruesome 
massacres in Kings: I decided on the spot that I should 
leave the Old Testament out of the curriculum if I were 
a missionary, and stick to Christian charity and the New. 
If you come to think of it, the Old Testament is the worst 
literature possible for these races: with that on the one 
hand and the Koran on the other the reign of toleration 
has very little chance. 

Your own FREYA. 



83. To her Mother. 

DAMASCUS. 11.4.28. 
DEAREST B., 

We had solemn farewells yesterday at the Sheikh's 
house. I came at an inconvenient moment, just when the 
young people's mother was taking up all the drawing- 
room floor for her prayers, and we had to step round her. 
,She was such an intelligent-looking little lady, and sent 
ter greetings to you. Her hair was slightly dyed with 
.henna, and she spoke only Arabic, 

I took a little present to the girl, and was given a terrible 



LAST DAYS AT DAMASCUS 

production of her own in return, blue paint on pink 
georgette you will see! Alas! European art! They 
shewed me their paintings, copied from celebrated pictures 
with a disastrous competence ; so that I felt they had much 
better stick to the Moslem law against reproducing the 
human form. 

The Sheikh came with me afterwards to choose a knife. 
We got one with a fine gay handle and a wicked point 
the shopkeeper much impressed at dealing with an expert 
when he expected a tourist. The result was that I paid 
20 instead of 100 lire. I refused to accept it as a present, 
having already received an offering of scent at the street 
corner where, a man from Basra sits with a yellow turban 
and a tray full of little flagons in front of him. I chose 
musk in a little gilt case. I think I must bring David some. 

After the shopping, we explored two mosques, full of 
green and blue tiles. Anything more beautiful than these 
old tiles it is impossible to imagine, and the interiors of 
the mosques are delightful, too ; places full of peace and 
pleasant in atmosphere. 

Mr. Edmunds will., I imagine, turn up to-morrow evening 
and I am trying to cure my cold and not look too swollen 
in the face, for his benefit. 

I wandered into an old dyers' place yesterday, under- 
ground with an immense vaulted roof, and the inmates 
with their hands stained indigo, and big turbans. They 
were very amiable. 

A sad tragedy. All my photos on the day of the desert 
are bad : there was no sun, and the terrific wind shook the 
camera. 

Your own FREYA. 



84. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. Tuesday, 17.4.28. 

DARLING B., 

Before telling you of these. last days, I must explain 
how I come to be home again with Miss Audi. On 
Thursday Mr. Edmunds arrived : his voice mingled in my 
afternoon dreams, and I rushed down more or less com- 



Il6 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

pletely dressed so as to save him from being launched 
unprepared into the horrors of the family's sitting-room. 
I was more glad than I can tell you to see a normal human 
being of my own kind again! It was rather amusing: 
M. Paul Alexandre chose the same afternoon to appear 
unexpected on my doorstep. The two gentlemen's 
unhesitating verdict was that my lodging was Impossible, 
and they urged me to return in their car: I was in that 
state of feeble imbecility when the one thing that one 
cannot do is to make up one's own mind : so I let it all be 
done for me, and am really so grateful to them. It is 
only now that the effort is over that I realize how great 
it was ! 

My Damascus home was really rather unspeakable. 
Poor Mr. Edmunds ! He bore up very creditably, but he 
will never know how much, much worse it might have 
been: I went upstairs when they were supposed to have 
prepared his room up on the roof, and made them do it 
all over again from the beginning, initiating them into 
the mysteries of washing down a floor. And I kept him 
carefully out of the dining-room, which was enough to 
make a quite strong man faint away. Even so, "much 
remained to conquer still*'; under the present conventions 
of polite language we could not discuss the most peculiar 
peculiarities; a curious expression comes over his face 
whenever we come anywhere near the subject, however. 
I think he was a little overcome when I put my precious 
sprayer, carefully filled with Keating's, in his hand as a 
good-night offering. Never have I done such 'a thing to a 
young man before; I felt strongly that it was East of Suez, 

M. Paul was rather a bore because it meant that I had 
to speak French, English and Arabic alternately all day 
long, and also he gravitated irrepressibly to all that was 
European and seemed to be drawn by a magnet to things 
like tramlines. And I had to bargain for such atrocious 
objects on which he set his heart. We spent a morning in 
the bazaars. The two were just like infants buying new 
toys ; I enjoyed it so much. 

After lunch we were firm with M. Paul, and packed 
him, all beautifully dressed in city black, into a little 
carriage and took him into the country and set him down 



LAST DAYS AT DAMASCUS IIJ 

near a little copse by a stream and made tea. Sitt Rose 
had forgotten the milk : a convenient sheep near-by provided 
us ; the fellah milked her into our tea-cup, and then strolled 
up and talked to us with more members of the family 
pleasant people they were, so courteous and hospitable. 
We walked back through a green and peaceful country, 
poplars and walnuts and blossoming pear trees, the evening 
coming on and cattle returning from the fields. We 
passed through my village, where I had so flustered the 
Mission by walking alone, and found the people sitting in 
circles outside their doors in the cool light, the women 
going to the stream with their pitchers. The people from 
whom I had bought leban recognized me with smiles and 
greetings: it was all friendliness and pleasant manners, 
and all so lovely in the soft twilight. There seems to be 
something peculiarly luminous in the air of Damascus 
as if the atmosphere were thinner than elsewhere and the 
light could shine through more easily. 

Next day was more or less taken up by business, I had 
to pack, and pay good-bye calls. I went out a little with 
Mr. Edmunds, and we strolled about among the little 
shops, watching their crafts: the tinsmith polishing his 
coppers by standing in them on a pile of wet gravel and 
then twirling himself from side to side at such speed that 
the gravel polishes off every stain in no time. Then the 
weavers weaving striped silk for waistcoats a nice Moham- 
medan with a beard. Then the man who presses tarbooshes 
under a heavy brass press heated by a primus stove. Then 
the man who lives in a little dark shop cooking rice in milk 
all day long. Then the makers of sabots; they chop 
them neatly out of pieces of tree trunk with hatchets, and 
give them their slim shape with a couple of clever strokes. 
Then we wandered into the jewellers 9 suq a gloomy place 
they lock at night, and filled with great iron safes. By this 
time it was too late to do any orthodox sight-seeing. 

On the Sunday, our last day, we went out to the lake 
where Barada ends. Luck again : for we found the Beduins. 
It really was a good day all through. We had two absurd 
little Christians to drive us, with faces like the wooden 



Il8 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

soldiers in Chauves-Souris : we liked them better as the day 
wore on and they forgot to worry about the health of their 
car whenever we came to a ditch. We did get rather 
involved in ditches and ploughed land and stretches of 
water after we left the last village. Then Providence came 
along in the shape of a sprite of a boy, full of enterprise and 
adventure, with a lovely Arab profile and flashing eyes. 
He must have had the pure Arab in him somewhere, for 
all he was a fellah of the village. He ran like a greyhound 
under his clumsy bundle of clothes. He clambered on to our 
car and showed us the way without our ever asking him* 
and led us among the waterways at acute angles till we 
reached the grassland and all was easy going. 

The Beduin black tents were dotted round. It was a 
happy place; open sky and the river moving slowly, quite 
deep, through the grassy plain. Our boy waded across, 
walked up to a meditative family of donkeys, and came 
back riding, with nothing but Mr. Edmunds's stick to help 
him. I longed to see Beduins: Mr. E. 5 very superior, 
having seen many in Palestine, was not encouraging: 
M. Paul looked dubious over the river. I mounted, 
however, and Mohammed behind me, and we got across, 
and the donkeys were whacked back into the stream for 
the two gentlemen to seize and make the most of, which 
they did. The Beduins came towards us and we strolled 
to the tents. I think I was well inspired: I asked for the 
Sheikh's tent, and this seemed to be the right thing: it 
was the biggest of them all, open along the front and 
divided into^ wattled compartments, and we were taken 
to the largest compartment where the two cofTee pots 
stood in a hole in the ground and the sheikh himself lay 
fast asleep beside them. In a corner at one end all the 
tiny lambs were huddled safely. 

A rug was spread for us : we squatted down, and looked 
across at our sleeping host, who began to come to himself 
very gradually. Mr. Edmunds considers that he did it 
with great 'dignity, but I was feeling slightly nervous as 
to my unsupported Arabic (M. Paul knows a few words, but 
they usually say something he doesn't intend) . The Sheikh 
finally came to a sitting posture, in which he remained 
meditative for a while with his eyes on the ground, looking 



AMONG THE BEDUINS 

magnificent in his flowing garments and grey beard. He 
then spat 3 reached out a hand to the man nearest him a 
fierce long-faced Arab with two long pigtails and began 
murmuring in quite incomprehensible language which 
did not sound particularly cordial. I made a feeble 
attempt at explaining our existence, but one can't carry 
on small talk with a Patriarch, and the correct thing- 
seemed to be to sit silent, which we did for some time. 
After a long while, the Sheikh stretched his hand to the 
coffee pot, and poured out a few sips into two little cups 
which he handed to me and M. Paul (I was surprised at 
the woman being first served!). Another problem: was 
one to drink it all, or leave some in the cup? One ought 
to know these formalities before wandering. I left some, 
and seemed to have done the wrong thing, for the Sheikh 
looked at it with awful intentness and finally poured it 
away on the ground, and gave me no more ; which was a 
pity, for it was so good. M. Paul then offended very 
seriously by refusing the cigarette which the kind A.D.CL 
had (literally) just licked into shape for him. He made 
it up by offering his tobacco pouch, and the atmosphere 
began to thaw. "Oh daughter of my heart," said the old 
Sheikh to some question of mine : after that I felt all must 
be well. 

I went and sat a little among the women in the next 
compartment and was warmly welcomed there. They 
were much interested in my clothes and tremendously 
impressed by silk knickers. I looked at their thick saddle 
bags and weavings. It seemed a good deal cleaner than 
my Damascus home. The women were charming : one or 
two truly beautiful, with small, delicate straight features : 
every movement was graceful and full of ease and dignity. 
They are tattooed all over their chins up to the lower lip, 
and their head-dress is of the same colour, and wraps the 
face round like a nun's f and the whole effect with the 
long blue gowns and silver bracelets is very dignified and 
beautiful. They were pleased with my name: I pro- 
nounced it Faraia, and it is very like one of the Arab names. 
It was a joy to hear the beautiful language well spoken. 
I believe it is only in the desert you can hear it so. I was 
also pleased at being able to understand so much. 



120 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

Our motor meanwhile somehow found its way round the 
river and came lumbering up looking remarkably incon- 
gruous. We were able to get at chocolate and distribute 
it round, though I noticed no one ate till we gave the 
good example. We were now conversing. They told 
us of their wanderings. In winter they find grazing five 
or six days' journey in the desert : the old sheikh told me 
the land there is full of ruined cities. Finally, as we got 
up to go, they said they were preparing our meal. This 
was an awful prospect: certain death for me, anyway. 
I explained that we had already eaten the meal in our 
hearts, but that we must get round the lake before nightfall 
and could not wait, but would eat the fatted sheep next 
time. This was a brilliant linguistic effort, and successful. 
They watched us into our car with interest, but no vulgar 
curiosity. I ventured on a joke and told the sheikh that 
our camel ate more than theirs, and got a charming smile 
out of him : he was a beautiful old man, with a head meant 
for Leonardo or Michelangelo to copy, and kind eyes. 

That was the best of the day, though the rest was good 
enough. We skirted the rushes, the lake full of herons and 
duck and innumerable strange birds catching the sun on 
coppery wings. The space was immense! We lunched 
in the shadow of the car with the warm wind singing round 
us. To the north and east, small sandstorms were whirling 
f along in high columns : and we saw mirage, blue waters so 
unmistakable that we were taken in. We made tea under 
difficulties, trying to keep the wind off the saucepan and 
the dust out of the drink, not very successfully : and finally 
came home in the late evening light along the Palmyra 
road. In spite of all, Damascus has been well worth while. 

Yesterday we came away a lovely drive by the green 
Barada water, then high along the desolate ridge of Anti- 
Lebanon, all red earth and rubble, with Hermon on our 
left striped with snow. Then a sudden glorious descent, 
very steep, into the broad flats of Beqa with round green 
hil]s rising like islands; and Lebanon on the opposite side, 
also striped with snow and descending in great red folds : 
absurd colours, like Dolomites, only more violent. I shall 
never forget Hermon as we climbed and looked across the 



BACK AT BRUMANA 121 

green spaces to where he lay like a great wave asleep in 
the sun crested with white. We climbed into the crisp 
air, good breath of hills : reached snow : here they have built 
houses to pack it for Beirut's summer ices. Here one 
looked over half Syria, and we tried to induce M. Paul to 
lunch like an Olympian, but he wanted Hammana down 
the other side, and orgies of Victorian sentiment where 
Lamartine wrote platitudes about that tiresome Jocelyne. 
So we lunched among the Lebanon pines, feeling very much 
like coming home. 

We have left the East behind us. This is not Europe: 
but it is Mediterranean, the same family as Villatella or 
Greece. Very lovely. A thin film of very vivid green 
from young corn and mulberry leaves is over it all. The 
last snow just melted off Sannin. 

Miss Audi embraced me. And gave me a bath. You 
never saw anything so immaculate as my bed-curtains! 
I found myself stroking their lovely whiteness! 

Your own FREYA. 



85. To Mrs. Jeyes. 

BRUMANA. 18.4.28. 

DEAREST VIVA, 

I have left Damascus. In spite of all I still carry 
the Enchanted City in my heart. We had one scrumptious 
breakfast in the hotel lounge before leaving, but even 
while revelling in the softness of those cushioned chairs, I 
could not help pitying all the poor misguided tourists 
from the very bottom of my heart! 

My second day in the desert was even better than the 
first. We had coffee with a Beduin Sheikh Ghassan of 
the Rualla was the name, I think. We found ourselves 
sitting there without having thought about it beforehand, 
on a nice mat on the ground with three chief Arabs sitting 
opposite and the coffee pots between us: all silent. The 
two older men were really magnificent, their manners 
perfect, their long trailing sleeves and draped heads under 
the black fillets immensely dignified. It was impressive: 
and might have been 4,000 years ago. I don't know 



122 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

what they made of us, but it all became very friendly before 
we left. The last we saw was the whole family gathered 
together, one man keeping the flock of sheep back from 
our car, the tall figures standing with an indescribable 
grace on the short desert grass. It alone was worth three 
years Arabic : like looking through a window on to a life 
completely unknown, and strange and beautiful from its 
fitness : an immense sense, too, of space and freedom. It 
' was a shock later in the day., when we had rounded the 
lake and were running at a fine pace over the hard sandy 
earth, to see another car and be told it was the son of the 
Sheikh Nuri Sharlan returning to his tribe ! 

I have discovered that it is easier to be made welcome 
without a man around in this country. I went with Mr. 
Edmunds through the lovely emptiness of the Great Mosque 
before leaving Damascus, and had a very different recep- 
tion from last time. A fierce old Hajji in green turban 
came growling for baksheesh and took us sullenly round, 
till I asked him about his pilgrimage to Mecca. Then he 
melted slightly as far as I was concerned and told me he 
was one of the Serif, of the Prophet's family, and shook 
hands when we left, though I don't think his kindness 
extended to Mr. Edmunds. 

Lebanon is delicious now and I am warm. I mean 
warm for the day, not just for an hour to be chilled the 
next I am busy trying to get fat again. 

Your loving FREYA. 

* 
86. To Miss Buddicom. 

BRUMANA. 20.4.28. 
DEAREST VENETIA, 

Joy to get your letter. I can't tell you how I long 
for May ist. I will go down to Beirut, and fetch you 
up in the evening. 

No, I have no fixed plans. I have had bad luck- 
dysentery in Damascus. Syrian ladies in rows sitting 
round the bed eating candied oranges over my languid 
body; wandering strangers coming in to ask after me (as 
no one undresses they think nothing of bedrooms. They 



BRUMANA 123 

attributed my illness to my queer habit of taking my clothes 
off at night). My Moslem doctor pulled me through. 
He is a good man, and so nice. And has refused to let 
me pay him for all his work. I am beginning to feel less 
miserably weak now and may yet be fit for the rock cities 
if you can bear the heat. It is all black basalt and no 
trees, but would be a fascinating thing to do. 

I had two days in the desert : only the fringe of course, 
but yet it was freedom, limitless more than the sea, for you 
felt no shore to it. k Oh, indescribable. I saw.a Beduin 
waving to his horse and the creature come to him from 
quite a distance, galloping, a beautiful sight. If you wave 
your sleeve (they wear very long trailing ones), it is a sign 
of friendship : this man made us the signal, a draped figure 
standing in that loneliness as our car jolted over the rough 
ground. One can hardly believe all this is Real Life and 
not mere Literature! We found a Roman fort, nothing 
of it left but walls, still square and sharp, the big stones 
laid without mortar, the waste lands round it Behind us 
and already out of sight ran the last eastern road, old as 
the Druids and trodden always by people on the watch : no 
peaceful harvests or leisurely strolling there. The wind 
was howling and buffeting, with clouds scudding along, 
making the landscape soft as a moorland, though it was 
nothing but wormwood and baked earth. We ate our 
food with little clouds of Roman sand blown off the hewn 
stones and thought of the fragility of things. 

I shall not write again but just expect you. 

Your loving FREYA. 

87, To her Mother 

1 i 

BRUMANA. 21,4.28. 

DARLING B., 

I am still revelling in the bliss of idleness in a nice 
clean house. Am looking a regenerated creature too and 
getting fat. I told Mr. Edmunds that my gratitude for 
being torn from Damascus would last a week and then I 
would begin to repine: so he came round last night to 
see if the change was beginning, and told me of the fearful 



124 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

shock Brumana got when it heard that we had been, so to 
speak, staying together in that villainous house. M. Paul, 
with true delicacy, had given out that they were together 
at the hotel, and Mr. E. waited till the middle of a dinner- 
party at the Fox's to mention casually where he was lodged, 
and watched poor Mr. Fox getting pink in the face. They 
are really nice people: they all seem to have stood the 
shock and are rather nicer to me than before. 

The Fox's have also been telling him that we were 
lucky with our Beduins and that poor Miss H., who is an 
amiable lady, somewhat plain, was robbed of everything 
except one garment which she managed with difficulty to 
persuade them to leave her. I am so glad 1 did not have 
to come home with the two gentlemen in my chemise. 

My Arabic has done well in Damascus. I was too ill 
to work and thought no progress was being made, but find 
that it has been sinking in of itself and that I know much 
more than I did. I think I can now travel about quite 
happily, and could even do interpreting if it came my way. 
It is only if I got into any sort of tight corner that my 
language would not do for getting me out again. 

I saw Najm, the Druse guide, looking so active and 
intelligent, striding along with a black silk head-dress tied 
round his tarboosh and all the tassels waving, and a gun 
slung behind him. It gave me a pang! I must have at 
least a couple of days with him before we leave. 

Poor Mile., who is composed of sentiment and softness 
and simply pining for romance, cannot understand how I 
can come home with a charming young man under these 
intriguing circumstances, and yet eat my meals with quite 
an prdinary appetite. "Nous sommes phis tendres que cela" 
says she, looking unutterable. I told her that I thought 
it would be most indelicate to be "tendre ",/zrtf, and that 
she had better look for the incipient symptoms in the 
gentleman when next he comes to dinner. 

They have just had a missionary conference in Jerusalem 
which has annoyed the Moslems and caused riots and 
protests all over the country. The irony is that the local 
Christians have joined in the Moslem protests. The 
Government must bless them all. 
Ever so much love, darling B. Your FREYA, 



A WALK AT BRUMANA 125 

88. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 30.4.28. 
DARLING B., 

Venetia arrives to-morrow, and I shall keep this to 
add news of our plans as soon as we can make them. 

After lasting for nine days the sirocco has gone, and I 
had a long walk on Friday in a soft damp mist which seemed 
all out of place in this landscape. It made the flowers 
look very bright and I found quantities dog rose and 
hawthorn, cystus and orchids, and many strange ones. 
My legs still carried me very feebly : I must get them into 
training for V. I don't think we shall wait here long: 
she will not be able to stand the gramophone for one 
thing. Mile, has a new sentimental disc which is nearly 
driving me silly. 

It is high time I left. I had a delightful Sunday out 
with Mr. Edmunds yesterday, but we counted that it was 
the fourth spent in some reprehensible way that meant 
absence from Church! Mr. Fox dares not remonstrate 
for he leans on Mr. E. for the whole management of his 
school, but it must be a strain, not to mention the feelings 
of the rest of Brumana. 

We found a lovely walk. Took the car to where the 
road cuts the valley and stream and then followed up the 
water a gentle stream with pools and ripples, and the 
valley wide and like a cup for sunlight, coming down in 
pine ridges, range upon range, with something of a park 
about it, and something Arcadian. One went on and on 
round each corner, impossible to stop. We found a little 
side valley for lunch, and made salad and cooked the 
coffee, and then strolled down to the river to wash up and 
sat and looked at the water, which is always the most 
entrancing occupation in the world : and then found patches 
of cool pine-tree shadow to fall asleep in (I did any- 
way) ; and then made tea, and found we could not reach 
our car again till forty minutes after time and could only 
just manage to be home in decent time for supper. It was 
the most beautiful valley I have yet seen here; so remote, 
and yet friendly, for there was an old bridge, half ruined, 



126 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

and vines and olives here and there, and just a house or 
two exactly like the old romances. It was a happy day 
altogether. 

Brumana school went down to Beirut for sports on 
Saturday and Mr. Edmunds gave me an entertaining 
account of the Syrian ideas of play. One of his best 
runners suddenly dropped out for no reason except that 
he had five boys in front of him and said he could never 
run in a race unless he were leading. Another missed 
his entry because he was not attending when his name 
was called. Brumana now has quite a creditable football 
team, thanks to great energy and hard work on Mr. E.'s 
part, but the opposing team spent their time trying to 
kick the adversaries instead of the ball. One of our poor 
little boys remonstrated while his shins were being kicked 
and was told that he would be killed if he said any more 
about it! 

Your own FREYA. 



89. To her Mother. 

BRUMANA. 3.5.28. 
DARLING B., 

Venetia is here, looking very thin but pretty. It 
is good to have her. We shall be leaving the day after 
to-morrow, and wandering, and only know that we must 
reach Jerusalem by May soth. I hope for letters there. 

Crowds of people coming to say good-bye. I feel it 
hard to believe that in two days 9 time Brumana will be 
in the past. 

Love to you from 

FREYA. 



4. BRUMANA TO DAMASCUS AND THENCE TO 
JERUSALEM. LETTERS 90108 

The two friends go by car to Baalbek and Damascus. 
Their next expedition is an unconventional and adventurous 
one, seeing that the Druse revolt of August, 1925, had 
continued until March, 1927, and that the French rulers of 
Syria were far from welcoming intruders. They are mounted 
on donkeys and with a Druse guide called JVajm make a 
leisurely progress towards Palestine. At the end of eleven 
days they are at Bosra. There they dismiss their guide and 
take a car for Jericho and Jerusalem. 

The sequel is not told in the letters^ but readers may like 
to know that the two wayworn travellers went by train from 
Jerusalem to Cairo and sailed from Alexandria to Venice, 
calling at Rhodes and Corfu on the way. From Venice 
they proceeded to their respective homes at Asolo and in 
Wales* 



go. To her Father. 

BAALBEK, HOTEL PALMYRA* Saturday, 5.5.28. 

DEAREST PIPS, 

It seems strange after all this time to be writing 
from anywhere but Brumana. One feels, when one goes 
away without thought of return, as if what is left were being 
shut out of the world; it seems incredible that it all really 
goes on existing : tea-parties, gossip, heartburnings, politics, 
and the sunsets beautiful over Beirut as if I were there 
to see. 



this section the long letters to Mrs. Stark are more of the 
nature of a diary than most of the letters in the previous sections. 
It may be worth recording that Freya Stark's books on Southern 
Arabia owe much of their vividness to their being built up from 
similar letters to her mother, in which each incident was set 
down on the day of its occurrence. From many of the letters 
in the present book purely personal matters have been excised. 



128 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

We left this morning in a car all to ourselves. We 
tried to invite the two pleasant young men, and success- 
fully avoided all the elderly ladies who wanted to come, 
and we had a hot drive down to the valley and up Lebanon 
through summer green and masses of lavender, cystus, 
rose, and rhododendron, and then down the bare red 
side where the hills are folded in strata, and along the flat 
land between the two ranges : Hermon out of sight, and 
everything hazy and dusty in the hot sun with the cold air 
running through it. 

And we came here and have a room with the ruins 
opposite : square blocks, and six immense grand columns 
against a zebra ridge of snow. We are going to look after 
tea. One should take one's ruins carefully in small doses 
between meals. 

It is quite different seeing things from a hotel. They 
become mere objects at once instead of being part of the 
enchantment. But it is only till Tuesday for the Adven- 
ture is to be after all and we are going among the Druses. 
Our beds and kitchen, Najm and his small nephew and 
three donkeys are to meet us Monday morning in Damascus, 
and we hope to go south into the wilderness on Tuesday 
morning early and as inconspicuously as .possible, in case 
the French think us dangerous. We have one letter of 
introduction and a small gun (Najm's) with 100 cartridges, 
only for quails I trust. We have to buy a water-skin, 
as the water there is poisonous, and presents instead of 
money to offer in return for hospitality. 

I meant to bring this off all along, but pretended even 
to myself that I had given up after my illness with a sub- 
conscious feeling, however, that it was just pretence. When 
Venetia came there was no doubt left. There is a certain 
madness comes over one at the mere sight of a good map. 
She had three days' rest, chiefly filled with packing our 
things in four different lots for various parts of Asia, and 
in saying good-bye. It was quite sad. Everyone has 
been so nice to me all through, and putting up with a great 
many shocks. They don't know our present plan: that 
will be a parting flutter to leave as a souvenir. Mile- 
told me no one had ever done so much stirring up of 
missionaries in Brumana before. 



BAALBEK I2Q 

DAMASCUS. 6.5.28. 

We were up early this morning and managed the ruins 
very well, shaking off guides. We found a sunny corner 
and sat there to 'meditate., and to watch the lovely colour 
of the old stone, tawny and red and black exactly like 
the hills behind it. There is a wonderful sweep of Lebanon 
to the north, one immense ridge of melting snow, and a 
curly dragon of cloud lying round its knees throwing a 
deep blue shadow; then red country sloping down to 
where the Baalbek oasis begins for it is an oasis of trees 
in the shaven landscape, poplars, fruit and corn, all 
brilliant green. 

There are still the great steps to the temple, by courts 
and porticos and rows of niches : the steps are cut into 
huge blocks, six or seven out of one piece of stone. It is 
not as good as the Acropolis: what can be? Not so fine: 
just the difference between Greece and Rome. But 
immensity of size is impressive. The guide-book says that 
three blocks in the west wall are the biggest ever used in 
architecture : and one feels the size too, acting harmoni- 
ously like strength. There is one beautiful square door 
immensely high. The temple inside is nearly perfect too, 
all but the roof; and there the little hawks were flying 
with shrill cries and black outlines of feathers clear round 
their white bodies or they looked white against the blue. 
Swallows, and hawks, and lizards, and little far figures of 
tourists clambering: all small busy lives running among 
these ruins, which seemed to belong to the land itself 
rather than to anything human in it : as if the worship of 
Baal" and Helios and Jupiter, and then Theodosius's 
temple; and then the Moslem walls, were all inherent 
secrets which had flowered inevitably one after the other 
in that wilderness of tumbled stones and columns. 

We left after lunch against a strong west wind, the plain 
and hills all colours under the sun and clouds, and came 
spinning along the solitary Damascus road with nothing 
in sight. At last we saw two good-sized animals ahead of 
us, and one tiny donkey, the smallest mite you can think 
of, trotting along on neat little ankles. When we got nearer, 
Najm appeared, and the nephew, and our luggage under 
them, looking Oriental as possible. We waved, much 



130 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

exhilarated. Though how that poor little beast is to 
trot with the others I don't know, and it'll be I who have 
to ride him out of mere respect to a sense of proportion. 

We met Miss Newton in the hotel at Baalbek. She 
is a champion of the Arabs and I had an introduction to 
her. She was most discouraging and said we would 
certainly be turned back by the French, and advised us to 
ask responsible opinions. Now that is what I call bad 
advice. There is an Arab proverb which says: "The 
wise man sits by the river, but the fool gets across barefoot/' 
and that is what we are going to do. And I think we can 
tackle a Frenchman. 

I feel often as if you were here with me. How I wish I 
could make you see it all. I am getting to love these huge 
empty landscapes where you live with the sky as if you 
were at sea* Your FREYA. 

91. To her Mother. 

DAMASCUS. 7.5.28. 
DARLING B., 

Only a note, for I am so tired after a chaos of a day, 
and we are off, or hope to be, at six to-morrow morning. 

I went shopping all the morning, for food and lanterns 
and useful things. Then a wearing time after lunch, with 
Najm, bargaining over saddlebags and presents suitable 
for Druses. Such a funny mixture : four razors, five pocket- 
knives, four pieces of white cambric for the gentlemen's 
heads and the same for the ladies, five mirrors, one pair 
of scissors, reels of cotton, needles, buttons, and five small 
rubber balls with landscapes on them for the children; 
besides a box of Damascus sweets for the chief to whom I 
have a letter. Najm bargains with a look of innocence. 
He has nice brown eyes with flecks in them like the skin 
of a trout, and a good maitial moustache. His profile, 
when his headgear with, all its tassels, etc., is on and his 
rifle slung behind him, is quite fine, except that his figure 
is skimpy and he wears yellow boots. The rifle is kept 
among my underclothes at present: I discovered it there 
when I went to look at things in the khan. What a 
magnificent feeling it is to go and see one's beasts feeding 



DAMASCUS 131 

in the khan among the sheep and camels and muleteers 
and drivers ! One needs a microscope to find my donkey, 
but there it is "a poor thing but mine own" for ten days 
at least, and with new gilt stirrups. Whether our legs can 
stretch to the wooden saddles is a discovery for to-morrow. 

I called on my old home. And then on the Bahist 
tanner, who was not there but visited me after dinner 
together with his son and a gentleman from India (also 
dusky). They were sitting in a row in the hotel lounge 
as I came out frorn the dining-room with Dr. Azm (Venetia 
had tiresomely collapsed with headache just when she was 
wanted as a chaperon). The American tourists stared. 
Four Moslems at once and three of them blackish was too 
much even for the hotel staff, who are supercilious ever since. 

My Sheikh is very happy, for the death sentence on 
his brother and brother-in-law is recalled. He wishes 
I were to be here to see Damascus turn topsy-turvy over 
their return. The elections have brought in a nationalist 
majority : they are all full of enthusiasm. The place also 
full of troops, more so than when I left. 

We came into a large assembly yesterday, banners, 
speeches and all in the big square ; a holiday, my Sheikh 
said, to commemorate the twenty-five men hung by Jemal 
Pasha on this day. I was surprised at such a cheerful 
commemoration. "It is because they were the first to 
die for Syrian freedom," said he. 

I must stop. Venetia is longing to go to sleep, and 
to-morrow is all before us. We are going to meet our 
equipage outside the town so as not to hit the policeman 
in the eye. They say the Jebel Druse is closed country. 

Your own FREYA. 

92. To her Mother. 

DEIR ALL 8.5.28. 
DEAREST B, 

It looks as if the Adventure were here. Anyway 
here are we, settled for the night among the Druses, and 
very happy : except that a tragedy has occurred about the 
water. We were so anxious to be inconspicuous in Damas- 
cus that we left Najm alone with the loading, and he forgot* 



132 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

He brought along our beasts and luggage to where the 
tramlines end a small caravan of three bulging out wider 
than it was long, with the empty water-skin dancing friskily 
at the very top of the pyramid. Najm says never mind, 
and has now got the thing full of a yellow liquid which 
will suffer no visible change when turned into tea : but we 
have qualms. 

We had to keep for three hours to the high road and had 
shocks with every policeman. No more than suspicious 
looks so far, however. The beasts trot along in quite a 
brisk, though wayward, way; it took them no time to 
discover we are not experts with the single rein: when 
they are absent-minded one says "hah" in a bass voice 
and holds on ; their awakening makes the saddle rock like 
a boat and is particularly sudden if you happen to be 
sitting sideways: otherwise you ride astride with your 
legs very far apart and a flat space of saddle in front, useful 
for resting the map or camera. At present I can hardly sit 
anywhere, after five hours at a stretch and no muscles to 
do it with. We were to go on another two in the cool of 
the evening, but one of thfc Druses has been murmuring 
that the next village is Circassian and bad, and Najm has 
settled that we stay here. Delicious feeling! All places 
are alike to us. 

We happened on the only Moslem family in this village. 
They live in what they call a garden a beanfield in 
shadow under old olive trees, full of birds singing : and a 
small brook flows through in and out of their plots of 
melons. We have been sleeping in the shade with our 
heads on the saddlebags while Najm tells as much of our 
life history as he can invent. 

There is wild stony country all around, a hill of shady 
blackish rock on our left called the Castle of Brass: a 
Turkish fort, they say, on the top, but now only heaps of 
stones. The valley strip is green corn : rio trees as we came 
along except one clump round 'a village very effectively 
arranged with its flat roofs dark against Hermon in the 
west. The country was desolate on the whole, for we 
left the rich land on our right with the main road after 
passing Kiswe. Pharpar wanders there through poplar 
groves, a deep green water : you can trace its coil of trees 



DEIR ALI 133 

far away among the red hills, where water is indeed "the 
lives of men!" 

It was good going quietly along the main road, watching 
the country open, chatting to wayfarers, very like life when 
it is sensible and peaceful. An old roadmender came 
riding alongside on a white donkey, his blue eyes very 
northern under a white headdress. He told us of a mira- 
culous well not far away from Katana, where the moon is 
visible in the water long before she appears in the sky. 
Then we talked of robbers and Beduins how two of Najm's 
party were attacked and killed ten years ago. He pointed 
to a bridge and told us how he once came upon a shot and 
dying man lying there. He wanted us to be interested 
and not alarmed and it was fun to watch him keep the 
balance. We were glad of a little melodrama, for the 
landscape was very monotonous. Everything that grows 
has spikes. The space between us and the Indian Ocean 
is chiefly covered with small sharp pebbles: a wasteful 
form of cosmic activity. 

Hospitality is a law here; nobody will be paid. The 
women gathered an apronful of beans for us, and brought 
leban, and wood for a fire, and Najm cooked rice, and the 
little girl, Amina (which means faithful) came and talked. 
Sitting there in the green shadows, with demure little 
features and pretty manners and the cotton sheet wrapping 
her body in purple chequered draperies, she might have 
been Mary playing in her quiet garden. When the news 
of our coming spread, a circle gathered. The people's 
manners are perfect free-born and very friendly. I 
offered them cigarettes. Najm is a good Druse strict 
about these matters and never smokes himself but "when 
no one is about . . . and to honour the lady"; the other 
Druses said exactly what my Sheikh said about the wine 
last night. Your own FREYA. 

93. To her Mother. 

SAWARA EL KEBIR. 9.5.28. 
DEAREST B., 

We were just then interrupted by four of the village 
men of Deir ALL who came upon us where we hoped to 



134 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

have discovered solitude, and left us not another minute of 
daylight to ourselves. I don't know how we are to get 
time even to write, for we are never alone when in a village : 
we are now only having a short respite to sleep off our ride. 
It has been a fantastic time. The four men came along 
looking just like the villains in badly-drawn illustrations 
of seventy years ago and settled down on the ground 
beside us. One of them informed us he was to be our 
host for the night. He was dressed in a long blue gown 
and an ancient black kafiye on his head, which had no 
top to it. He did not look very reassuring, but actually 
he has been the most kind and thoughtful host. 

The whole party led us to the roof of the house, up a 
ladder, and a city man from Damascus came to entertain 
us, being considered more equal to the task, though we 
liked our country friends infinitely more. We sat through 
the sunset, watching Hermon and the broad valley, and 
the herds coming to the brook to drink. The people are 
grieving, for there has been hardly any rain, and the crops 
have died and they cannot even make the oxen work for 
next year, for they have no fodder for them to work on. 
It is going to be a bad year here on the fringe of the desert. 
They have no other crop and no other work to turn to. 
It is quite miserable to go through miles and miles of 
stubble as if it were already after harvest time. 

10.5.38. 

After we had sat a long time on the roof, and more 
men had gathered round us, we were invited down to the 
court of the house, where two camels and our three donkeys 
were tied to the enclosing yellow mud wall. There was a 
low platform against the house, and they had spread us a 
carpet and a pile of cushions for our elbows, and we sat 
and watched the pot cooking over a fire indoors, and the 
women with long white veils wrapped well over the mouth 
walking to and fro with their beautiful barefoot walk, 
attending to the supper, carrying little oil lights as the 
night darkened, and looking like so many Tanagra figures 
moving noiselessly. It was very wonderful; and quiet: 
the animals munching peacefully with a little tinkle of 
bells now and then : two small pomegranate trees in flower 
Dver the top of the wall against the western sky. 



DEIR ALI 135 

When it grew quite late and dark we w 4 ere conducted into 
a big whitewashed room with a fire in an open fireplace 
in the corner and carpets spread for us all six. men besides 
our party. We took off our shoes, and they put a round 
basket mat before us, and leban, rice, olives, cheese and 
eggs in little dishes. We were their first European visitors. 
They gave us spoons, but we preferred to try scooping our 
dinner up with the bread and caused much pleasure and 
amusement. It was all beautifully clean very different 
from Damascus. The women waited on us. Dogs, cats 
and children came as near as they dared. Venetia was 
much cleverer than I at the management of the bread. 
I was, as a matter of fact, almost giddy with the long ride 
and the effort of talking Arabic for about five hours after it. 

When we had finished, the women ate what was left, and 
then cleared it all away, while our host made the coffee. 
He roasted the beans in a shallow scoop and handed them 
to a young man there who beat them in a mortar with a 
huge pestle, beating to a cheerful tune: it is an art and 
needs lots of skill and strength. Venetia had never tasted 
this excellent drink, and they were all very pleased with 
our praises. Presently the chief Moslem came in, a fearful 
old villain to look at, like the Ogre with bloodshot eyes, 
which were almost worst when he tried to look pleasant. 
He alone smoked a hubble-bubble; the others took our 
cigarettes, while we all discussed the harmfulness of smoking 
in general. The genuine oriental view came from our 
host, who looked up from where he was crouching over the 
fire to say that it is God and not the tobacco who sends the 
diseases ; so that I suppose it makes no odds how many bad 
things you indulge in. 

We were very tired. I felt broken to bits, and very glad 
when they took us out to sleep. There was a murmured 
consultation as to whether there would be too many bugs 
for us indoors: "They are not accustomed," said Najm 
anxiously. I pretended not to listen but was very decidedly 
in favour of a bed in the open when the suggestion was 
made. They spread our platform with mattresses and 
quilts ; we looked up into a sky full of white clouds, and 
pools of stars; and were very happy. When the moon 
rose I woke up and saw the two camels padding out from 



136 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

Deir All on their way to reach Damascus at dawn. It 
seemed incredible that this was really I ! It was not exactly 
comfortable : there was a sort of hill under my mattress 
which began to move in the middle of the night, and turned 
out to be 'Arif, the small nephew: it must have been 
worse for him than for me, but after all I had not asked 
him to settle with all me and my bed on top of him. As 
for fleas, Keating's has succumbed to numbers. 

Your own FREYA. 

94. To her Mother. 

SHAHBA. 11.5.28. 
DEAREST B., 

I shall never catch up. Now, however, we have a 
few hours before us, being virtually prisoners among the 
French officers who have us here on their hands in the 
middle of their country, and are anxious to get us out again 
without hurting our feelings, and yet without letting us see 
the Druses. But I must tell you all this in order. 

We had -a good start from Deir Ali. Hot milk to drink, 
and left at 5.30 in the early light, meeting the village 
women as they came to the water : very beautiful the grey 
world in the tender morning and the bright clothes and 
glittering ornaments of the women gold coins on their 
heads under a white veil, just glimmering through. They 
wear long tight bodices which give a charming grace and 
slimness to their figures. The bodice is laced with silver 
ornaments down the front, and the numerous little plaits 
of their hair are also fastened with silver trinkets under 
the veil. 

The dress itself is very voluminous long drawers and 
a skirt over; an apron over this, all dark, and then an 
overskirt open down the front and richly embroidered 
with the beautiful designs they still make up out of their 
own imaginations. Over this they wear another overdress 
with sleeves, also open and embroidered, and sometimes a 
bright sash below the waist where the bodice ends. The 
older matrons do not have the bodice fastened at all but 
let it support their breasts on either side leaving it open 
down the middle, which looks very insecure. - They arc 



DEIR ALI TO BURAK 137 

always pleased when we admire their clothes, and are 
disposed to agree that they are prettier than ours. They 
are beautiful to see coming up from the water with the 
lovely movement of the arm upheld to the jar on their 
shoulder. Alas, we have been seeing them with petrol 
cans; but at Deir Ali they had the good earthenware 
pitchers painted with waves and red stripes, like the 
pre-Homeric potteries. 

We left the Hill of Brass and went along between the 
desert and the sown, or between what was still growing and 
what had died for want of water, fields and fields of desolate 
ploughed land hardly recognizable under so many stones. 
We came by a little bit of rushy grass with water between 
turfy banks, and there were ponies grazing and it was 
suddenly Dartmoor. And then we passed Merjana, the 
first of the basalt villages, and it was black as ink over 
which dust has been thrown. They are imposing from a 
way off. When you come near, they are mostly heaps of 
lava stone. 

Najm was very nervous. He told us these were all bad 
people and Circassians : synonyms to a Druse. We had a 
few words with one by the wayside, but he did nothing 
more violent than to invite us to spend the night in his 
village. 

We were travelling across a nearly level plain, with the 
Brass Hill behind us and the blue of Jebel Druse ahead, 
with the flats of Hauran on our right and Hermon beyond, 
and little volcanic tells on our left. The landscape was 
already dancing and quivering though it was still early. 
We saw the little tells disappearing in heat : they turned to 
blue spots raised above the horizon, and then vanished 
into the white of the sky. In front of Jebel Druse was a 
speckly flat land still indistinguishable, but getting gradually 
clearer. We finally saw it to be the low ridge of Leja with 
Burak standing on its edge like a fortress, quite black. 

There was a good military road running through this 
lonely country. Suddenly we saw a car spinning along it 
behind us and just as absurd in that place as a car in a 
movie. It came to a stop beside us, and there were three 
very agitated French officers inside, who began bawling to 



138 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

ask Najm the way and swearing at their chauffeur all in one 
breath, and equally uselessly, for neither understood 
French. I have an idea they thought they were being led 
astray on purpose. Najm was just like a stodgy cairn 
terrier with his bristles up. I tried to kick my beast into 
the scene of action, and managed it with great slowness if 
not dignity, and asked politely if I could be of any use. 
You should have seen what a wave of stupefaction went 
visibly over that motor car ; and the man whose language 
had been so vivid showed that he had still a capacity for 
blushes. They asked for Burak, and I told them, and they 
rushed off only too glad to see the last of us without asking 
questions, and sped away in the opposite direction to that 
they had asked for, which mystery we never cleared. 

Najm seemed very reluctant about Burak, but we have 
long stopped taking advice. As soon as we got into the 
village, we saw people coming out at us like rabbits from 
the low doorways. They were the most unattractive 
crowd you ever saw, all with high cheekbones and slanting 
eyes, young fellows chiefly, and talking a language of which 
I could not understand a word. They took us into a large 
room and set us down on mats and cushions and went on 
talking among themselves, casting glances at us: they 
would reply to our poor little remarks in Arabic, and then 
set to again in their uncomfortable language. After a 
while we thought we would try to get away and suggested 
that we should go and see the town; but we were merely 
told to sit still and rest. We began to be anxious to be 
well out of it., Najm had that air of angelic meekness 
which he always puts on when he is in difficulties or with 
people he dislikes; we also gathered from a few remarks 
that these people were enemies of the Druses ; I realized 
that they were Circassians, and was rather afraid there 
might be trouble for Najm if they found out about him. 
He sat looking as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth 
while they told him of Druse murders. 

Finally, an elderly woman came in, swathed in black 
like a nun; she sat herself down beside us and was the only 
person who seemed human in the room. She told us that 
they really were Circassians who had come there forty 
years before (just after Porter's description of Burak as a 



LEAVING BURAK 139 

deserted city) and had inhabited three villages here ever 
since, and how only the younger people speak Arabic as 
well as Turkish. An old man now came with lunch on a 
tray : he had a beard and rather a nice Mongol appearance; 
he was a charming old man in fact. He set the tray down, 
with flat bread, leban, cucumber, and omelet, and made 
us drink some unattractive water which we swallowed 
because we felt it was less dangerous than refusing it; it 
was the colour of peat water. 

The feeling of the room was still very hostile, all except 
the woman and the old man who crouched on his heels be- 
side us flapping away the flies with a towel, which was kind 
but made eating difficult. I suddenly had a happy thought : 
I took up the leban and said: "Yoghourt"; it just shews 
the use of language! The word acted like magic and 
everybody smiled. After that we had no more uneasiness* 
We went round the ruined streets, heaps of black stones 
with houses here and there, seventeen centuries old and 
many still intact, with roofs of solid stone slabs and win- 
dows and doors too, solid sheets of black stone turning in 
stone sockets. I measured one door and found it a span 
in thickness, and tried hard to move it but couldn't, but 
the people there swing them to and fro. We finally parted 
from them all on the edge of Leja amid blessings, and one 
young man came down to show us the Roman cistern in 
the plain, a huge square tank with steps leading down to it, 
the water looking rather sinister reflecting the black stone. 
I hope all our photos will come out. 

By this time it was about eleven and everything swim- 
ming in heat, and nothing but the fear that these people 
might discover about Najm made us go on along by the 
edge of Leja, which drops from a low ridge of dismal rubble 
on to an equally dismal stony plain. We tried to induce 
Najm to let us rest in the shade of an old square fort which 
stood on our left from the village, but he had had as much 
as he could bear and refused, saying that it was no rest to 
keep a look-out for Beduins. We didn't point out that it 
was he and not we who would have to do the looking out, 
but went on meekly in a sort of coma, even meditation 
drowned in the sun which seemed to be cooking us like 



140 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

pancakes as it was refracted from the lava slabs. Our poor 
little donkeys went with their heads down, and slipping on 
the stone. 'l realized for the first time that one has to 
clothe oneself against the heat. An old Haurani man 
caught us up here, trotting barefoot over the blazing 
ground, and it was pleasant to see his gentle face after all 
those high cheekbones, and he was useful, too, as a guide, 
for the track was nearly invisible till we reached the 
"Sultan's Way" again, which wanders in sandy loneliness 
round Leja's outer edge. 

Just on the corner where Leja and the road turn south 
there is Sawara el Kebir, another good black outline of a 
village. We meant to rest there till evening and then go 
on, but we found such a charming welcome and were 
begged to stay, and were put to rest in a cool room in a fine 
big house after a drink of leban, and above all we were left 
alone : so that we felt this was simply a taste of heaven, and 
why move? Six hours is quite a lot on a donkey. We lay 
on deliciously soft mattresses through the afternoon. The 
father of the family must have died ; anyway, he was not 
en evidence and the place seemed well under the thumb of 
its women, who ran it very competently: there was the 
mother, rather meek, and a buxom aunt who ruled the 
whole establishment, and Nur, aged seventeen and the 
loveliest thing to look at in the world. The men were 
comparatively quite unimportant, and though a marriage 
was later suggested to me with the son of the house^ that 
was aunt's doing also and I believe he was not even 
consulted. He would have been a shock to you as a son- 
in-law, though his eyebrows were really very fine, slanting 
towards each other with the slight perfect curve of two 
bows over his eyes, which were of course blackened with a 
pencil line below them. This slant of the eyebrow seems 
very characteristic of the Beduin Arab. 

We went with Nur to the water-fetching after the sun 
had gone, and saw the same doors and windows as at 
Burak, and a good old temple door and a pillared room: 
there is no reason, except in the destructiveness of men, 
why this building should not last like the pyramids, for 
there is nothing about it that is not stone. 

The water-tank was like Burak, but a gentler scene, for 



SAWARA EL KEBIR 14! 

all the village was gathered in friendly leisure. There 
was a goatherd filling the trough for about a hundred black 
goats to drink in turn : he was a half-naked Beduin, as wild 
and skinny as some Goya John the Baptist, standing against 
the skyline drawing up the cans of water. The women 
stood about waiting, chatting, Christians and Druses in a 
friendly way for they share this village. We had met 
one of the Christians already at the house, tattooed and 
dressed in blue like a Beduin and sitting on the floor with 
a sewing machine. Now we saw that they all wore the 
same costume : in times of massacre it must mean that 
St. Bartholomew is already prepared on both sides. 
Venetia sat and sketched, but found it hard with so many 
enthusiasts round her: whether it was a goat or a baby, 
they would push the creature almost on to her paper and 
expect a portrait. She managed one quite creditable 
infant, and pleased the parent, who took the picture away 
after making her draw a hand with five outspread fingers 
underneath it as a talisman. 

The youngest son of the house came strolling back with 
us, talking appalling French to V. He asked me to 
embrace him as a brother : we are getting tactful in these 
predicaments; I told him I would treat him as an English 
brother and shake his hand. 

At the house we found that the schoolmaster had come 
to call on us. He had a fine, delicate face, and talked bad 
French taught by the Jesuits ; and told us that frequent 
tourists came to" Sawara, a statement which we doubted 
at the time and which our military friends have now 
decidedly contradicted. 

Najm had been shooting larks all day. He is a par^- 
ticularly bad shot, but the creatures are so tame, they sit 
on stones and hop about these barren lands without fear. 
We were always glad when Najm missed them, but could 
not help finding them very good for dinner. 

After dinner visitors began to drop in. Various wild- 
looking cousins with the same tilted eyebrows and long 
hair and blackened eyes. More and more came all men 
of course; but these people's manners are truly good : the 
aunt came to sit beside us so that we should not feel uncom- 
fortable; and Nur hovered at the window and at last crept 



142 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

in and sat by her aunt also, her white veil well arranged 
over her mouth and chin : and one could see that her aunt 
had not the heart to scold her away. 

My Arabic goes completely mad when I am tired : it 
was a great strain to be chief visitors in a circle of over 
twenty strangers after such a long day. The eldest son 
brought the rebeck in and we had music, very skilfully 
played on his one string, wayward and mournful as wind. 
Then Najm began to sing with 'Arif, who is a sturdy 
little boy of thirteen with a good voice and a snub nose 
and a round mouth, and will walk along for hours in 
silence till he breaks into some sudden confidence. And 
then three men got up and danced the Dabki, all holding 
hands and going through different formal steps. I noticed 
what an important thing the bare foot is in a dance, and 
what art in just a subtle placing of the heel or little twist of 
a muscle; it becomes as expressive as the hand can be. 
There was a gay scamp of an old sheikh who was great at 
the Dabki : his eyes gleamed out under his bushy eyebrows 
and he twisted his old body from side to side in the most 
daredevil way. 

They were very friendly and took much trouble over us. 
I happened to say that I liked the music of the pipes, and 
they sent at once for the expert who played them a 
handsome creature with two long pigtails falling over his 
hands as he sat on the floor holding the double reeds to 
his lips. It was a curious gathering in the flickering light. 
Most of the men had European coats military loot many 
of them, with the regiments still shewing on the buttons. 
They wore their long gowns under, and the Beduin white 
draped head-dress held in place with the black camel-hair 
cord. The older sheikhs always keep to the true Druse 
head-dress, however, and that is a very neat white turban, 
quite small and wound tightly, like a skull cap. 

They all left us at last, and the women came in and then 
they began to tlk. The unfortunate guest has double 
labour when host and hostess have to be spoken to separ- 
ately. It was a great affair to settle whether or not we 
were to sleep alon,e : they made up their minds finally that 
only the aunt and the son of the house should sleep with 
us: on what principle the selection was made we could 



SAWARA EL KEBIR 143 

not discover. Under the circumstances it would, we felt, 
be indelicate to admit to undressing; but Venetia ventured 
to put her pyjamas on over her clothes and this had a great 
success, and she was taken into the family bedroom next 
door and examined with shouts of laughter : though, as we 
pointed out to the ladies, they themselves wear very much 
the same sort of objects by day as well as by* night. 

The aunt as a matter of fact looked well in deshabille with 
two long black plaits coming down when her veil was off, 
and the gold coins,' in which she sleeps, shining like a 
crown. She also kept on a silver amulet slung like a 
bandolier over her white petticoat. Nur's hair was 
differently done, in numerous tiny plaits all weighted with 
red silk cords ending in silver tassels : she told me the name, 
but I have forgotten, and she said that the weight was good 
for the head. The hairdressing has to be done once a 
month. One of the little plaits is neatly arranged to come 
under the chin so that they can tuck the veil into it. I 
had been puzzling as to how they managed to hold it up 
over the mouth. Nur was very anxious to sleep beside me 
with her arms round my neck, but ttus excess of affection 
was discouraged, to my relief. When we were all tucked 
in, the son of the house came to his bed in the corner : 
but he was troubled, because V. and I, instead of sleeping, 
went on murmuring to each other about things like 
Keating's, and so the poor man crept out again to sleep on 
the balcony, and the aunt came and explained the matter. 
If this is not true thoughtfulness, what is? We accepted 
the sacrifice gratefully. WE didn't sleep till after twelve, 
for there were a great many fleas : I suppose one may get 
accustomed. Whenever I woke in the night I heard V. 
pumping at that little sprayer. 

That is all I have to tell you about Sawara. Here at 
Shahba we have just been interrupted by a conversation 
through the partition of our bedroom (every word comes 
through, and it is a great cramp to V.'s and my conversa- 
tion). It is the Intelligence Officer and one of his native 
police, and he is telling him that we are to be allowed about 
so long as we shew no sign of wishing to pry into the affairs 
of their tiresome war; otherwise we are to be taken to the 



144 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

nearest officer (rather guesswork this for it's all in Arabic). 
I suppose we are intended to hear as it is being said so 
loudly. We don't want to enquire about their war; in 
fact we want to get away from it and them at present. 
But if I were as nervous as all that I should take jolly good 
care to hide it more. 

Your own FREYA. 

95. To her Mother, 

SHAHBA. 11.5,28. 

DARLING B., 

When we left Sawara at five on Thursday morning 
we thought we were to have a grey day for a change. We 
followed the high road the Sultan's Way and fourtd 
that it took us through flat corn country with Leja just 
out of sight on our right and only the black villages ap- 
pearing on its edge. That is how, quite accidentally but 
providentially, we missed falling into the hands of the 
garrison at Khul Kiiuly where we had meant to sleep 
the night before and whence we would probably have been 
sent back from the Jebel Druse altogether. We passed it 
in the distance, saw tne French flag waving on its guard- 
house, and then, finding the main road dull, turned over 
ploughed land and discovered a mule-track leading from 
village to village close by the Wadi Liwa which looks like 
a snaky moat round the fortress of Leja and can be traced 
by its clumps of green shrub, though there is no water in it. 

V. was feeling sick and faint that morning. We went on 
for some time, then she thought milk and a rest would be 
the thing, so we turned aside and found a well of the usual 
dirty water, with a dead sparrow floating in it, and decided 
to picnic. There was no shade, there is not a tree in all 
this country; but the sky was cloudy. We sent 'Arif for 
the milk, and were just beginning to enjoy tea over the 
spirit lamp and the bliss of being alone, when he returned 
with the villagers, and we were slowly but quite irresistibly 
forced to accept hospitality. Killed with kindness, we 
are being. 

Redeme is the village, and it is divided into two parts, 



REDEME 145 

and a stony bit between them, and one is Druse and the 
other Christian. The latter got at us first; a simple 
peasant man, very anxious to make us happy. The 
Druses dropped us as soon as they saw us with their 
enemies, for they are still at daggers drawn in Redeme. 
They fraternised with Najm and his gun at a distance. We 
were left in the hands of a horrid little worm of a school- 
master who first tried to induce us to throw over our 
peasant host and go to him, and then began lamenting 
that we Christian ladies should let ourselves be taken 
about by a Druse guide. Venetia considers me weak in 
the matter of snubbing, but I did my best on this occasion; 
I did so dislike him, and his French was villainous : but he 
was insuppressible. How one loathes these products of 
European education when one sees them next to the 
genuine article of the country ! 

We insisted on going to our peasant's house, and found 
his living-room vaulted with the ancient stone, washed a 
deep ochre ; the floor of solidified dung and a huge porous 
water jar catching the light from the door. His handsome 
wife, dressed in Beduin blue as at Sawara, received us, and 
cooked the birds while the men started the coffee at the 
central hearth. v 

These Christians spoke a barbarous sort of Arabic, 
pronouncing k as ch, and q like g; it was quite incom- 
prehensible to me. They were a very handsome lot, 
unvisited by the world, and rougher than at Sawara : we 
were the first Europeans ever known to have stayed there, 
except for the French when they opened the school. The 
groups gathered in the shaft of light from the door; they 
looked amazingly picturesque against that yellow back- 
ground; the violence of the beauty here is so surprising: it 
springs out of ugliness with no transition, like Minerva 
fully armed, and leaves one breathless. 

Our host and hostess were very anxious to do well with 
their unaccustomed visitors, and troubled because we 
would eat nothing more substantial than our birds, which 
we tore to bits with our teeth in front of the interested 
audience quite calmly, Venetia reviving visibly as the 
process went on. They all thought her in the last stages 
of disease ; I had to assure them very seriously that it was 



FK.OM 



not consumption. There are no doctors in these villages : 
"Either we are well or we die," said our host. His little 
daughter was ill, with a heart thumping terribly and I did 
what I could, telling them to let her he flat and keep her 
v going with coffee and take her as soon as they could to 
Tell Khaldiye where there is a M O. for the garrison, 
Our unspeakable schoolmaster assured us that this man 
would not attend to a civilian patient : at the time I thought 
this merely a reflection of the little bounder's own brutality, 
but now that we have got to know the army of occupation 
more intimately why, I should not wonder if it were true. 

We had explained carefully to Najm that we must be 
alone for an hour or so every day : accordingly, after our 
meal they spread us out one on each side of the coffee 
hearth to sleep and the audience was scattered ; but it went 
on coming in a continual stream to the doorway to look in, 
so that we didn't get a very good rest, and about two 
o'clock we felt we might just as well move on. There is 
very little to see in Redeme except the big cistern of rain- 
water as in all the other villages, and the lower story of an 
old tower which they told us had been much damaged 
during the fighting two years ago. I imagined the Druse 
half of the village walked across the dividing space and 
played havoc with our friends: the feeling is still high 
anyway, and when we went to visit the Druse Sheikh the 
Christians did not accompany us but stood gathered on 
the edge of the dividing space to watch us very much as a 
flock of sheep might do if two of their number suddenly 
decided to pay an afternoon call on the wolves. 

The wolves were extremely pleased and Najm simply 
swelling with satisfaction as he showed us off to his friends, 
We realized that we should have offended seriously by 
omitting this ceremony. The Druses really have much 
better manners. I am not sure that the fact of keeping 
the women as such absolute inferiors does not help to give 
the men their remarkable dignity : even the poorest always 
has someone in his own house on whom to practise the 
manners of a king, and so the grand air comes natural. I 
am not saying the game is worth the candle, but the 
manner is certainly there and very pleasant to find. The 
Druses have only one wife, and if they divorce her they 



REDEME TO SHAHBA 147 

can never change their minds and marry her again, as the 
Moslems may do. 

We felt we must pacify the Christian part of the village 
by visiting the school, and found a charming picture 
about thirty little figures in long gowns to their feet and 
bright round caps learning their lessons in rows in a small 
building with a French flag floating from the window. 

Then we left Redeme, after presenting our Druse host 
with a pocket-knife: I have to be rather careful about 
presents ; Najm hates to see the goods of this world falling 
into the hands of infidels : the poor Circassians got nothing 
at all out of him. 

We followed along the Leja track. This is wild country, 
full of ruined stones and cities, a sad beauty of its own over 
its greyness. Here you reckon time from Sunrise to Sunset. 
You greet hastily on the road to see if it is to be Peace, if 
your greeting is returned. Life has the charm of being 
secured at a cost of personal endeavour, a thing sweet 
because not valued too highly. That surely is freedom. 

There was a grey sky, and an arid hot wind from the 
west. We came by a lonely waterhole ; three riders were 
there talking to sitters by the well, the long tails of the 
horses and the leader's bright green cloak swishing about 
in the wind. They kindly wheeled about to let me take a 
picture. The man in green was the Sheikh of Imtune, 
the next village : he went off like a centaur, his beautiful 
little Arab picking its way among the stones. 

Regaining the Sultan's Way we turned south-west 
as the afternoon wore on. We had left Redeme at 2.45. 
Imtune on our right looked a miserable sort of place for 
the night, and we decided to push on to Shahba even after 
dark, though Najm disliked the idea of night on the road. 
The country became a little gentler, pale yellow or green 
where the corn was not too dead, and swelling into round 
teHs with a feeling of England about their sudden grassy 
sweeps in the evening light. It is marvellous what a 
Variety of things the sky can do with a treeless landscape. 

Our road led up towards the hills, the same that had 
looked so blue from Deir AIL We left Tell Shibhan, 
a pudding shape, on our right, padded through a belt of 



148 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

black coal-dust, and saw Shahba in the dusk, almost 
indistinguishable among the black stones of its hillside, 
and spread along the ridge. The light was failing. Little 
white dianthus flowers, a kind I have never seen and 
smelling sweet like jasmine, were just visible by the roadside : 
the people were bringing in the last loads of their harvest. 
Our poor donkeys stumbled about, very tired; we had 
done seven and a half hours that day. Just before it got 
quite dark we clattered through the Roman gate, half 
ruined, and found a broad Roman street, its houses in 
heaps on either hand. Our hoofs rang on the pavement : 
it was as if we entered among ghosts. We came to where 
the triumphal arch once stood, at the crossing of two 
great streets, and went uphill, past three temple columns. 
White-turbaned Druses were sitting at the doorsteps. It 
was as if all the centuries were whispering behind them. 
We knocked at the door we had been told of, and the 
women welcomed us, and made us rest in a charming 
yellow room always the same ochre wash decorated 
with paintings and the bright round mats all hung along 
the walls. And we let ourselves fall into sheepskin rugs, 
took our shoes off, washed our hands and faces, and were 
just sinking into perfect contentment when the French 
military got us. 

Your own FREYA. 

96. To her Mother. 

SHAHBA. 11.5.28. 
DARLING B., 

I left off just at the interesting moment when two 
men in khaki native police came in to say that their 
officer would like us to visit him. We really are still 
remarkably innocent. We took it for a message of kindness, 
and thought we would pay a call before supper and get it 
over. Our men led us along, through a whole boxful of 
matches, up and down stairs without railings where one 
seemed about to fall off the edge every minute. Venetia 
was just turning into a black doorway, when they told her 
it was the prison : which was an omen, no doubt* At last 
we climbed on to a little square terrace in the light of a 



SHAHBA 149 

petroleum lamp and found six astonished French officers 
really extremely astonished. They had thought our 
arrival, when it was announced to them, a hallucination of 
their police, and were in the midst of dinner. I don't think 
I have ever seen people so completely nonplussed before. 

We murmured politely and were going to retire, but 
this woke them up and a young man in white uniform 
made it evident that he was the head, and that we were not 
to go our own ways any longer. We were not to go back 
to our hosts, not even to see about luggage, certainly not 
to speak to them: we were not to speak to Najm by our- 
selves. But he was sent for and the wretched Mustashar 
which means one of whom advice is asked and is what the 
Intelligence Officers are called here told him in what we 
thought a very arrogant manner that the people of the 
house were not to trouble about us any more, or words to 
that effect ; our luggage was to be kept at the poste. 

I had a qualm thinking of my little book, where I had 
written disrespectfully of their colonial government and 
which they would find if they searched. Najm wore the 
same expression of non-committal innocence which he puts 
on for the Circassians : he just turned his head from the 
Mustashar J s Arabic and looked to see if I meant to confirm 
it. I had a second's hesitation whether to let on about 
knowing the language or not, as I knew it would make our 
case worse, but it was the only way of communicating 
with Najm. I was also getting red in the face with annoy- 
ance at hearing him spoken to in that way : so said that he 
was to tell our hosts that the Mustashar had "commanded" 
us to stay and must be obeyed, and left the six officers none 
too pleased, I rather think, with this way of putting it. 
They listened in the most freezing silence. 

We felt that as we had no choice about remaining, it 
was better to do so as guests, and have been very careful to 
keep the matter on this footing, which is making it much 
more difficult for our poor jailors to do anything about us. 
Whatever they suggest in the way of detainment, we thank 
them for effusively, and tell them how charming it is to 
find such unexpected hospitality, how delightful to have a 
bed with nothing in it besides, and water to wash in, with 



150 I LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

a pol man to bring it to you. The feminine element 
has o dously not been known in Shahba before; the 
gams' . is straining itself to provide for its comfort. They 
have ,d to turn out of a nice room hung with rugs and 
provic d with French novels : and they have had to lend 
me p} ,mas, as they won't let me go to my luggage. Blue 
flannc tte with a sea-green pattern! Venetia has been 
riding n the Intelligence Officer's breeches, which dangle 
looser; round her legs. Her blue eyes are almost too much 
for th Mustashar. As for me and my Arabic we are 
darnni I. He is quite sure that I am here to stir up the 
Druse with her as an innocent foil, and he has put us in 
this re m, which has nothing but thin wood to separate it 
from 1 is office. So far he can have heard nothing but 
gurgle of laughter, which must be irritating. 

It \sas a comic meal last night. They thought they 
were Cl making us talk," which was fun. Venetia and I 
got a minute to ourselves before, as they couldn't refuse us 
a chance to powder our noses, and hastily laid down the 
plan of defence. They couldn't be expected to believe 
that we were wandering merely for pleasure, so we decided 
to lay all the blame on Cook's guide-book which (happily) 
never mentions the existence of motor roads in the, Jebel 
Druse. "You should get it brought up to date/' said we 
reasonably. "It is very p&nible to go about on donkeys, . 
and you would have lots of tourists if they only knew what 
an easy country it is." The landscape here is almost 
entirely composed of black stones. We could see doubt in 
the eyes of the garrison. One young man finally said 
that he never thought the Agence Cook would be sending 
tourists here: we had to explain that we had not been 
exactly sent. They were in difficulties anyway, for they 
were anxious to assure us that the country is in perfect 
peace and good order, so they could not harp on our 
carelessness of danger. " What danger ? " say we promptly. 
"Is it^&ot all quiet now?" "Perfectly quiet, Mesde- 
moisdlfcs," "We knew that it was quite safe since you 
have tafcen it over," said we, intending to annoy. It does 
really rouse one's worst feelings to be taken for a spy, and 
the Mugtashar wa$ the only gentleman among them. 



SHAHBA / 151 

I had a smug little doctor beside me whose insinuations 
were a great strain. "No doubt you are interested/ 9 said 
he, "other compatriots of yours travelled here... just 
before the Rebellion." The nice old Commandant with a 
gentle face and white moustache was the only one who 
really liked us and would have been glad to talk of less 
explosive things than Druses. But we were there to answer 
questions, and did it with a simple truthfulness (all except 
the matter of Cook's) which astonished them more and 
more. It seems we have come 89 kilometres across that 
stony waste : and that English travellers have not come to 
Shahba since the war: and when we said we had been 
sleeping in the villages they just looked at each other. 
They seemed to think it was our fault that the police did 
not discover us; we refrained from pointing out that it 
was thqir business, not ours. But we did say we had come 
in contact with the Army near Burak, only had found it 
preoccupied, and in fact that it had seemed rather ibahi 
when we spoke to it. The story had a charming effect at 
the dinner table, and we felt we were getting our own back. 
We managed to skim over these abysses on a light level of 
conversation really quite creditable. Before retiring the 
Mustashar said very peremptorily that we could not 
possibly leave on the morrow. We told him we should be 
delighted to stay, and how kind we thought him, and would 
he take us out riding? He was quite meek about it, and 
we have had a gorgeous morning in the hills, and such a 
pleasant change from donkeys. 

Your own FREYA. 

97. To her Mother. 

SHAHBA. 11.5.28. 

DARLING B., 

Another scrap of time to tell you about this morning. 
It was really a pleasant time at least it would be so if it 
were not for the disagreeable feeling of being on the wrong 
black looks or subservience as the case may be, 
of the charming friendliness of before. We 
; not notice it if it were not for the difference of their 
at before. And the French manners to the natives 




152 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

are really bad, horrid. In everything else our Intelligence 
Officer is very pleasant, he is taking a lot of trouble about 
us ; and a handsome young man too, which is one of the 
things in this world of which he is most perfectly persuaded. 
He has a white uniform which sits very well and gives him 
a nice slim figure, so that when one looks at Venetia in his 
breeches it seems remarkable that the same garment can 
look so tight on one person and so loose on the other. 

I doubt if he can understand our lighthearted indifference 
to all the interference with our plans; we shall see what 
happens to-morrow when we try to leave. One thing is 
quite certain: I am not going to let this be turned into a 
French Conducted Tour. Our bed was not such an 
oasis of comfort either : we seemed to be sliding off the 
edge all night and longed for the safety of the Druse floor, 
and our native police attendant seemed to think he could 
clean our shoes in one corner while we washed in the other, 
which I suppose is what is done in barracks ; and when we 
had got rid of him and V. was just trying on the breeches, 
Najm poked his head through the broken pane of the door 
with such a pathetic smile that it seemed inhuman to tell 
him we didn't want to see him while we were dressing. 

We finally got out and found six mounted police with 
carbines and pistols holding our Arab ponies ready saddled; 
peaked saddles with embroidered flaps and long tassels and 
a single bright-coloured woollen rein. The police wear 
khaki, set off with an enormous red kafiye which they 
swathe round their heads, and clap the black chaplet on 
top, which is enough to make one forget any ordinary 
ideas one may have had about a policeman's appearance. 
We trotted out amid salutes fired into the air: guns slung 
over the shoulder, belts full of cartridges: the Druses 
looked at us , from their doorsteps. Delicious to be on 
something that does not jig along with tiny donkey steps. 
I found the native saddle comfortable enough and no 
difficulty with one rein. 

We clattered out by the straight Roman street with 
shattered houses, all ruined stones, on either hand ; by the 
ancient baths, through the great ruined gate, up a stony 
valley, heaped up with ruined volcanic rocks, and green 



SHAHBA 153 

wheat growing in red earth where the water can feed it. 
The country is all hills, very like the grass and stones of 
Dartmoor when there is no heather. Old black villages 
and little towns lying along the crests, and Leja just a 
greyness in the flat below us, with Shahba spread between 
two volcanic cones in the foreground, and the Hills of 
Brass already lost far away in haze. 

It was grey and quite cold. The bodyguard rushed 
round, galloping their ponies in circles, yelling a wild 
war song of four words over and over, chasing each other 
with brandished weapons and flying tassels. 

We went up to where our lieutenant is building the new 
reservoir for Shahba, a square thing in cement at the 
valley head. The people have to give their labour for 
nothing : and as it is the country people who are made to 
build it for the convenience of the town I suppose they are 
not very enthusiastic in the work. It seems to me also 
that a large store of water must make a difference to the 
little underground streams that used to trickle below and 
keep this valley green, and that it may make all below the 
reservoir less fertile, but I do not know about these things. 
Anyway it was a pleasure to see clear flowing water: 
"sweet" is the adjective the Arabs use for the sound of it, 
and that is what it is when you have been long out of 
its hearing. 

On the top of the round tell at the valley head is a little 
shrine dedicated to Jesus ; it is called Tell el Massieh, the 
hill of the Messiah, and we climbed our ponies to the top, 
and a red carpet was spread against the domed roof of the 
little sanctuary, and we sat there looking over half the 
world to the desert stretching out in broad and gentle 
lines, a lovely light upon its solitudes. The white bearded 
guardian came in his blue jacket, his eyes darkly pencilled, 
and stood before us where we reclined, and told us the 
legend : how Jesus slept here, and a little shrine was built, 
and then Mohammed came and it was forgotten, until the 
Druses restored it to honour and gave it its name. And 
then he pointed to the Hill of St. John, and then to the 
Hill of Khalid ibn el Walid, who buried his child there, so 
they say ; he was one of the great generals of the world, 



154 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

who turned the mill-wheels of Jalula with the blood of his 
enemies and was nicknamed Sword of God, and I should 
have liked to talk about him to the old man and would 
have made him very friendly at once, but I am rather 
carefully keeping my Arabic as dark as I can. I am 
already quite an ominous enigma in the Lieutenant's eyes, 
and V. says that the Interpreter has been murmuring in 
his master's ears that my Arabic is good. It was tiresome 
to have to go about being so dignified and not really 
polite : we were not even allowed to take off our shoes when 
we entered the shrine, and stood there quite unnecessarily 
polluting its holiness while the two police, who had 
followed us in, kissed the empty semblance of a tomb which 
stood in the middle of the little carpeted room. They 
kissed it in eight different places, at each corner. It is a 
great place of pilgrimage and the old man told us that, the 
sacrifices, kids or lambs, are still brought. 

We came down the hill shoulder to a Beduin camp. 
The police drew the tribe up in a line to meet us, and we 
were taken to the Sheikh's tent and sat at the back behind 
the coffee-pots in the place of honour, with our arms resting 
against a camel-saddle. The tribe sat round and gave us 
coffee and sherbet and a hot drink flavoured strongly with 
cinnamon very good : if I had been alone I should have 
found out how it was made, but we had to be dignified 
and just sit, and say a word now and then through 
the interpreter, though the Lieutenant speaks quite 
adequate Arabic : he says he uses the interpreter so that he 
may have time to think out his answer, but I can't help 
feeling that what he gains in dignity is more than lost by 
want of the cordiality which this system causes. 

After a while all the men stood up for a dance. They 
called a handsome Beduin maid from the women's side of 
the tent, and dressed her in one of the men's great cloaks and 
stood in a close row behind her clapping their hands with 
the long waving white sleeves and giving short low growls, 
very staccato and incredibly fierce, while the girl sailed up 
and down in front of them with a little stick in one hand 
and a handkerchief in the other, the clumsy garment 
billowing out like a sail, the movements slow and graceful : 
and the men all bent towards her, the whole line swaying 



SHAHBA 155 

this way and that as she moved, the clapping and growling 
keeping time together but growing faster and sharper, and 
faster and sharper, their wild faces half hidden under the 
dark kafiyes, the eyes shining out and the long dirty sleeves 
dancing like streamers. It was a marvellous sight. 

Your own FREYA. 
98. To hei Mother. 

SHAHBA. 12.5.28. 
DARLING B,, 

Yesterday was outstanding even in our crowded 
history. 

After finishing our letters we went about the town with 
Najm, who is in depths of gloom and apparently suffering 
from a regular inquisition from the police. I got him 
alone for a few seconds and just had time to explain to him 
what idiots they are, when two accompanying shadows 
joined us, very kindly, to shew us the sights of Shahba. I 
was rather pleased in the morning, by the way, for I 
managed to get at my luggage (with the excuse of pyjamas) 
and to convey the compromising book into Najm's waist- 
band under the very nose of a sentry to Najm's alarm 
and discomfort. 

Shahba has a fine impress of Roman spaciousness abouf 
it, though only the skeleton of its glory remains : baths and 
theatre and three temple columns and a charming temple 
front that is now the school; but the best of it are the four 
great streets, twelve metres is' the width where the low 
houses have not encroached; they are spread like a cross 
down the slope of the hill and end in the ruined gates, and 
the old pavement is still there. The Mustashar is having 
the main street rebuilt with shops and doing his best by 
keeping to the one-storied house of the country, but he is 
covering up the edges of the pavement and we are trying 
to point out this barbarism without hurting his feelings, 
It was fun teasing our police. We wanted to take photos 
of Druse women, but of course when they saw us not only 
with men but with policemen, they fled even before we got 
near them : I devoted my best" Arabic to explaining to our 
escort how much more friendly we found tfye people when 
we went about alone. 



156 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

Late in the day our Lieutenant procured a car and we 
were sent for to be taken to one of the central villages of 
Leja, which is the most inaccessible part of the Jebel, the 
part where hitherto no law ever reached. They have just 
finished a road through, a few days ago: I must say the 
French are doing good work in the way of roads. Each 
village is made to do its own piece under the responsibility 
of the Mudir or headman. This Mudir came with us : we 
were going to his house to arrange a wedding which had 
been rather precipitated; the bridegroom, one of our 
Lieutenant's police, had carried off the bride without asking 
anyone's leave, and the matter now had to be arranged. 
It was rather wonderful climbing up on to that dead plateau 
in the dusk. The road is cut through the solidified lava 
which tosses round in craters and crumbling ruins of crags 
and pinnacles, a hopeless waste land. The second book of 
Paradise Lost describes it. Nothing grows there : but there 
are old watch-towers and villages, sunken back into the 
stone chaos, and in the greyness and incredible confusion 
of that dead land you could not tell which ruins were made 
by nature and which by man. We crossed this belt by 
Umm Zeitun (the Mother of Olives, though such a tree 
does not exist in the country) and reached the cultivated 
part in the centre of Leja when night had fallen. The car 
had to jolt slowly over the bumps of the road, and just 
before we reached the village our armed escort passed us 
at a wild gallop yelling their war song : Hotoyoto hozoyozo 
they repeat the four syllables over and over. 

The village had turned out to meet us with two big 
lanterns, and V. and I led the procession swathed in our 
long Arab cloaks and with a strange feeling that we were 
walking in a dream. The lanterns were hung on stands 
near the centre of a high room built, roof and all, of stone 
slabs, and spanned with two great arches, all washed with 
yellow ochre. It was the original building of seventeen 
centuries ago. In the centre were the red embers and a 
row of coffee-pots with the long beaks shining brightly: 
and round the four sides crimson carpets were spread, 
with cushions piled here and there, making a rich harmony 
with the yellow walls. The wild figures trooped in: 
village youths with long locks sometimes as many as ten 



A JLJU/JA 

pigtails, sometimes just a shock of curls over either ear : 
Druse priests in black gowns and close white turban with 
a black drapery over the back of it: the soldiery with their 
cartridge-belts and red head-gear : and the Mudir himself, 
more or less European, his feet surprisingly clad in pumps. 
They were intelligent faces with free straight looks: not 
the perfection of the Beduin manner, but there is something 
very pleasing especially in the feeling of independence and 
perfect equality which is almost universal among them; 
when it is missing, which only happens where the Europeans 
have spoilt them, one feels what an immense loss it is* 

We sat in the place of honour on one side of the hearth ; 
and the Lieutenant, with the Mudir, on the other. We 
had the view of him reclining like a Roman emperor, in 
his white uniform with a red ribbon on his breast, running 
amber beads negligently through his fingers while the 
Mudir talked to him with great eagerness in a low voice and 
little groups sat murmuring in the flickering light. The 
servants were busy with the coffee. The Interpreter, also 
in white, sat near us, I believe with a vague idea that we 
required to be reassured. In the middle of the "room, 
looking very anxious, stood the bridegroom whose fate 
was being decided, the wildest figuie for a husband you 
can imagine with his black curls coming out in shocks 
under his red kafiye and his khaki overcoat looking as 
much like an Arab gown as such a garment can be made 
to look. This went on for a long time. At last a sort of 
atmosphere of conclusiveness came over the room: the 
feud I suppose had been settled : the bridegroom came up 
rather shyly: he was asking the Interpreter whether we 
should like the wedding before or after dinner. We 
thought the sooner the better, and that is what the Inter- 
preter said for us. 

Neither the bride nor groom appears on these occasions : 
the young Lochinvar retired, and two representatives sat 
down crosslegged opposite each other in the empty space 
behind the coffee-pots, two priests standing at their 
shoulders. A bracelet and a green kerchief were brought : 
the two held out their thumbs, upwards, one close to the 
other, and the bracelet was put over them, joining them 
together, and the green cloth was then put over that so as 



158 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

to cover the two hands. We were then asked to remain a 
minute or so in silence and to pray for the young couple, 
holding our palms outspread on our laps with the thumbs 
turned outward. The green kerchief was then taken off 
and the marriage legally over except for the bringing away 
of the bride, which was to happen later. A great tray of 
wine and sweets was then brought in, the particular offering 
of the bridegroom : it was vermouth, the only wine we have 
yet seen among the Druses. As soon as we had done 
honour to it, we moved up to our real dinner, two small 
roasted sheep and little messes of rice: luckily V. had 
remembered to suggest eggs in time, and I was treated as 
an invalid and watched with a free mind while the Inter- 
preter dipped his hand neatly into the sheep and heaped 
Venetia's plate. 

I don't really like eating with a roomful of people looking 
on in a silent circle. When we had done (the Lieutenant 
of course ate with us) the second lot of guests started : and 
after them the servants : and that was the end of the sheep. 
We meanwhile went and sat outside on the long seat by the 
door while the young men of the village drew themselves 
up in a line to dance before us a long semicircle rather 
with the lantern on the ground throwing its light up at 
them, and one youth whose hand-clapping led the chorus : 
his head-dress had come off and his head was shaven half- 
way up with about a dozen little plaits dangling all round, 
and he led very skilfully, singing one verse of a long long 
chant & marriage song, I think. The clapping hands all 
kept time, and the whole gathering took up the refrain, 
eight syllables, always the same: at intervals they would 
break off into the dance we had seen among the Bcduins, 
only far wilder, for it was now one or other of the men who 
would leave his place and come into the middle of the circle, 
and stand there jerking his body like an epileptic with little 
rigid jerks all up and down the line, facing the others and 
clapping furiously, and rousing those opposite him to a 
perfect frenzy of clapping and growling; then he would 
dash at one of them and tear off his head-dress, and this 
man would come into the middle while the other went back 
into the swaying clapping line; the growls were scarce 
human; it was like some primitive rage inexpressible in 



DRUSE ENTERTAINMENT 159 

words. The jumping figure in front was indescribably 
evil, the long gown and flying hair, and frenzy of passion, 
bent nearly double to urge the others on. The growling 
and clapping grew faster and faster; the line swayed as 
one man ; the light flickered over them against the blackness 
of the night ; one could not watch without a sort of terror, 
as if something unknown and appalling were suddenly 
finding its voice. When it all stopped, the people were 
quite exhausted. 

The Mudir was very anxious that we should go on to 
drink champagne (of all things) at his own house in the 
next village. But when we got into the car it appeared 
that we should have scarce enough" petrol to carry us home ; 
suggestions were made that we should try and run it on 
petroleum; we had a sudden quite unfounded suspicion 
that the French Intelligence had decided to decoy us on to 
Leja for the night while they dealt with Najm and our 
luggage separately. The Lieutenant, however, was quite 
firm and we said good-bye. Just as we were preparing to 
go there was a stir : the gathering opened out to make way 
for a handsome middle-aged man with blue eyes and 
straight black brows who walked up with quick step and 
flowing dark draperies ; he was the uncle of the abducted 
bride, and had been absent at the feast and reconciliation, 
I think he would have liked to remain absent too. He 
was making the best of a bad business : his coming evidently 
caused a sensation and much pleasure to the Mudir, who 
tried to cover up his kinsman's reserved manner by extreme 
heartiness of his own. The Lieutenant made a condes- 
cending speech with a rather sinister ending: "You and I 
know each other, Muhammed Ali." Muhammed Ali 
looked as if this fact were true but did not give him pleasure. 
He did not smile but looked very straight before him. We 
came away wondering what the drama is. It was nearly 
eleven and dark, and as we bumped along the new road 
we had, to slow down for hares, who could not understand 
headlights in their black country and ran stupidly in front 
of us> unable to escape the strange monster. 

Your own FREYA. 



l6o LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

99. To her Mother. 

SULEIME. 13.5.28. 

DARLING B., 

We have got away at last, at six this morning, after 
friendly farewells. I was tired yesterday and stayed indoors, 
quite glad to be in jail. The garrison was getting fond 
of us I believe, especially the servants ; as for the police, 
they looked on us as their especial pets. Last night in 
the starlight, just when the poor Lieutenant would have 
liked to say tender farewells to Venetia, I told him how 
awfully amusing we had found it to be taken for spies ; we 
should have such fun telling it to our mothers when we got 
home. The poor man was rather upset. "How can you 
think such things, Mesdemoiselles?" says he in a very- 
unnatural voice. How can we not, with a policeman 
springing up whenever we put our nose out of doors and 
poor Najm nearly frantic with cross-questionings! The 
Lieutenant, however, had an inkling that we were taking 
him rather as a joke, and I think he will be glad enough to 
let us go wherever we like so long as it is out of his particular 
district. He made a last effort to make us relinquish 
donkeys and let ourselves be taken round by a government 
car. 

We were as tactful as could be; I asked him to tell us 
what Druses to stay with, and he has given us a letter to 
the High Priest at Kanawat, and to the Interpreter's 
father at Salhad. Then I told him about my letter of 
introduction to the rebel Mut'ib Bey at Rosas; he looked 
taken aback, at my frankness I believe, for he had found 
out about the matter independently. The truth is that if 
we were to go and pay our visit surreptitiously it might get 
Mut'ib into trouble, so I thought it best to put the matter 
to the test. We now have a clear conscience, and I don't 
think anyone can interfere much with our amusement 
unless they take us openly as spies, and a little judicious 
teasing has made them feel that it is quite easy to look 
ridiculous ! It is so pleasant to feel that we have succeeded 
in doing what all the People who Know told us was 



FAREWELL TO SHAHBA l6l 

impossible. It appears that the Jebel is still under martial 
law and no one allowed in except with special permission. 
We told our friends at lunch that we meant to come again 
soon, and made them look rather glum. 

Your own FREYA. 



too. To her Mother. 

KANAWAT. Monday, 14.5.28. 
DEAREST B., 

You can't think what difficulties we have over these 
diaries, nor how exhausted we are from constant sociability. 
When our tour ends on Sunday, I think we shall be worn 
out, though happy. We meant to have a long lazy rest in 
bed this morning; but they woke us, unnecessarily, at 
four ; and at six we got up, knowing that if we waited to 
dress later we should have a divan of gentlemen looking on. 
We are now writing with a good-sized audience and 
hurrying to get as much down as possible. 

It was pleasant to get away into freedom again. I have 
kept my ideas on politics for the little book in Najm's 
tummy-band, but both V. and I feel we do not want to live 
in a French colony. It is ridiculous to call this a mandate, 
for I believe there is not a Frenchman in the country who 
intends these people ever to govern themselves. It is their 
bad manners that annoy me so. They talk of them and 
to them as if they were scarce to be considered as human 
beings. If the Druses ever get a chance, they will not 
leave a man of them alive in the whole district, and I 
have an idea that those who make the polite speeches will 
not be the last to join in the trouble. 

Venetia was quite annoyed with the Mustashar for 
not coming to lift us into our donkey stirrups. We offered 
him a ride on our nicest animal, the one that carries our 
bedding, but I don't think he likes to think of himself in 
conjunction with these undignified beasties. It was 
delicious to be alone again : freedom and a breeze, and the 
plain below us ; Leja, and Hermon, and the Hills of Brass, 
all our familiar landmarks. Najm burst into a song with 
the joy of getting us again. Even 'Arif 's little face looked 



162 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

broader than it is long. And the donkeys were well 
rested. 

We had done with tjie flat land and the stones ; it was the 
best sort of road, that wanders on the fringe of the hills, 
the lowlands on our right ; and we soon left the big road and 
took a track for Suleime, and came upon it, with its 
solitary temple pillar in the foreground, and took our 
snapshots before entering the village. 

Najm has relatives there: poor rough people. A nice 
man in a blue head-cloth with a long blond face, absurdly 
like Nicola at PArma, and devoted ,to his small only son. 
I have not yet seen a father caressing his daughter in 
this country. 

I don't think Suleime can be a very healthy village: 
the children looked miserable and pale and dirty; we 
collected them as usual. The people seemed poor. We 
were apparently the first tourists known there in recent 
times. There is nothing to see except the one temple ruin 
which is going to topple over very soon. It must have 
been turned by the Moslems into a fort, for there are arrow- 
slits. In the fields around us we looked down into vaulted 
subterranean passages; the French had blocked the 
entrance to them during the Rebellion, and we were not 
enthusiastic enough for candles and investigation. 

We tried to sleep after lunch. Najm had tied one 
donkey to the doorknocker, so that it was as if we were 
being lulled with castanets, and we got up fairly soon and 
went to visit the weaver who lives in a dark room rolling 
bright wool on to his clumsy loom. They have very 
attractive goat's-hair cushion stuff in dull orange patterns; 
we hope to find some in Suweida. We then called on the 
Sheikh. He did not seem very cordial, perhaps because 
we had not gone to him straight away : I think that is the 
sound policy in this country. It is very difficult : we have 
to pick up the etiquette as we go along. 

The Sheikh's new house was plastered all over with 
fragments -of the temple, bits of column or cornice or 
frieze let in anyhow into the walls. This vague appre- 
ciation of the antique is ' what is most rapidly ruining the 
old things here. As the temples fall they are dismembered 



KANAWAT 163 

and carried pell mell into other houses, and the villages 
are changing from year to year. I have seen some old 
columns at Kanawat to-day split half down their length and 
the hollow that served to hold the rod which joined one 
section to the other was made to serve as a water channel ! 
An old man in the Sheikh's house at Suleime told us that a 
whole wall of the temple was standing when he was a boy, 
and he used to clamber about on it and look out for raiding 
Beduin. And he told us that there was a buried room 
under the very floor we were sitting on, with pillars and all 
intact, which was now completely blocked up and in- 
accessible. 

When we left Suleime we at last came to trees. They 
were only the stumpy thorny-leaved things they here call 
oaks, but extremely joyful after five days without a sight 
of them. It was the first bit of shade we had seen outside 
a village since leaving Deir Ali and we insisted on cele- 
brating it and sitting in it, and eating biscuits and enjoying 
Peace. You can't think what a strain it is to be practically 
never alone. 

It was pleasant from Suleime up here : the hills in sight 
and we going up to them, and the temples of Kanawat 
shining out from green country; rolling slopes dotted with 
trees and vineyards. The track winds, very stony, between 
loose stone walls precariously balanced, and built one 
felt out of the ancient city, which must have stretched a 
long way. Porter 1 gives a careful description, but though 
we found all the single objects he describes, their position 
with regard to the town docs not seem to tally. There is 
a beautiful temple, seven columns in a circle, as you come 
up ; a castle on a hill to the left, and gentle slopes behind ; 
the late light was on the grey stone of the pillars, standing 
above walnut trees ; we looked over a wide prospect with 
Hermon faint beyond. Kanawat is really the best we 
have seen so far. The old temples live for their own 
loveliness among their orchards, grey stone carved with 
wreaths of vines or flowers, faded into soft colours, with 
nothing but the low black houses, themselves as old, to 
spoil the peaceful harmony. 

*J. H. Porter, Handbook for Travellers in Syria and Palestine, 1875. 



164 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

There is a little Roman theatre alone in a ravine, with 
the stream trickling by, and the remains of baths beside it; 
one can trace all the life of this little provincial town. We 
have followed its main road up the valley, where the 
round towers of defence were built against the Arabs just 
as to-day, and the dead are gathered in heaped mounds of 
graves half lost under earth and grasses. It is like sur- 
prising a secret soon to vanish for ever; the temples are 
crumbling, and if the country remains quiet enough to let 
the French look after it there will be horrors of red tiles 
and hideous hospitals before long. The Mustashar told 
us that M. Ponsot liked red roofs and wants them all over 
the Jebel. Beautiful Kanawat! I am glad we have seen 
it. But I must tell you in order. 

We had a letter from the Mustashar to the High Priest 
of all the Druses, Sheikh Achmed el Hajari apparently 
under the misguided impression that he is a friend of the 
French. He is a keen old man with a fine aquiline profile 
and neat white beard still faintly blonde, and when Najm 
handed in our letter he seemed none too pleased with it 
till the news that we are not really French, but English, 
had a most happy effect. I think he was troubled at the 
thought of having to entertain anything so unorthodox as 
two females alone, and sent us to his brother Sheikh Jussef 
next door, also a High Priest, and a jovial blackbearded 
man with a wife overlapping in rolls of fat who came to 
talk about her rheumatisms as it might have been on 
Dartmoor. 

We then had an A.D.C. from Sheikh Achmed asking us 
in which house we should like to spend the night: these 
are such difficult problems to have to face unprepared. 
We decided on Sheikh Achmed and found ourselves in his 
guest-room with a table and two chairs prepared for us, 
and that is not nearly so comfortable as the round mat and 
little dishes on the floor. And we had forks, so that 
Venetians cleverness with her bread dipper was wasted. I 
am clumsy, and cause much amusement Everything so 
far has been beautifully clean, far different from Damascus ; 
and it is not really objectionable for all to drink out of the 
same two cups. 

I think we disappointed the High Priest. When he 



KANAWAT 165 

heard that V. came from India, he and all the evening 
gathering became suddenly very eager and wanted her to 
explain the secret religions of the country. Unfortunately 
she is not at all up in these. I explained Buddhism as 
well as I could, and we then told them a little about Thibet 
and the Devil Worship of Central India: this was what 
they wanted and they were intensely interested and asked 
many questions, of which V. could not answer many. 
This was very disappointing, and I made matters worse by 
translating Devil Worship literally, and was surprised to 
hear a sort of groan of horror go round the room. I then 
remembered vaguely that the Druses do not believe them- 
selves to be unique in the world, but hold that somewhere 
in the Far East there is another people of Druses who are 
coming as conquerors westward in the last days of the 
earth, to join their brothers in the Jebel. We were on 
delicate ground. I believe Sheikh Achmed had hoped 
that we came to him with a message. He gave us up as 
inadequate and gathered with the Elders round the table 
at the far end of the room where they read in low voices 
out of little green books, while the lesser men kept us 
amused. I have noticed by the way that these Elders 
will not shake a woman's hand if they can help it ; we greet 
them by putting our hands to our breast, and that is 
evidently correct. 

After supper the Sheikh left us, and the younger men 
asked if we would go with them to attend a wedding. We 
were just starting when the old A.D.G. came in and put 
his foot down very decidedly, considering it highly improper 
for ladies to walk about at night. We said that we were 
very tired (truthfully), and so we remained iiji the guest- 
room, and the Piper was sent for and we had war songs on 
the reed flute, wild songs that would make the Father of 
Quakers look about him for a bayonet. The men sat 
round with eyes shining. 

When everyone had gone, the Sheikh and a fine-looking 
youngish man with a very keen face appeared again and 
asked if we would talk a little. I was so weary. But he 
began to question us about ancient graves, and especially 
he wanted to know what the town of Kanawat looked like 
in the ancient time. It was not antiquarian interest, but 



l66 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

some definite thing they were after and extremely eager 
about: and we were disappointing again. I could tell 
them nothing except that the buildings of this country are 
not pre-Christian, which statement also I thought they 
didn't like. I have promised to try and procure photo- 
graphs. I would give something to know what it is they 
are really thinking about. 

One thing they told us pleased us hugely. It seems that 
only two English travellers have come into this district at 
all since the Rebellion, and they were so shadowed they 
were never able to see a Druse alone and returned having 
seen practically nothing except French officers. I believe 
our freedom is due entirely to the Muslashar's fear of 
making himself ridiculous. I noticed it when I made a 
foolish remark without any intention about it at all, but 
he was so nervous, he immediately took it to himself: he 
was shewing us snapshots and there was one of a long file 
of camels led as usual by a donkey, and says I without 
thinking: "Ce rfest pas settlement les chameaux qui sont guides 
par les dnes," and he looked so electrified I am sure he 
thought I was referring to the Intelligence in the Jcbel 
Druse! Anyway, here we are, beautifully free and 
listening to Treason all day long. One thing is undoubted : 
Kanawat is not pro- French. 

Your own FREYA. 



101. To her Mother. 

SUWEIDA. 15.5.38, 
DARLING B., 

We had such a flealess night in Kanawat, and were 
allowed to go to bed so delightfully early, and the sense of 
liberty with no police about was so charming, that we 
decided to spend another day there. We slept in the 
guest-room. The young men came back from the wedding, 
one of them with an unorthodox blue ribbon round his 
turban, for which he was reprimanded by the High Priest, 
and made to dash it on the ground with a shamefaced air. 
The Druse priests are elected and get no pay, but they enjoy 
their authority. After this little scene the men all trooped 



KANAWAT 167 

out so that we might get into our beds, arranged in the 
window recess: the Sheikh himself superintended their 
making and then left us, and as the windows had shutters 
we were actually able to wash a little and take off some 
clothes, though that meant getting up very early next 
morning before the guest-room fills. 

Next morning we wandered up the ravine described by 
Porter in 1875 and found it much the same the little gem 
of a theatre with the stream running by, the baths, and 
the old tower above, now inhabited by the flute-player 
and his brother. We sat on carpets on a broad stone seat 
leaning against the old stone of the tower, and they gave 
us coffee and begged us to spend the next night there and 
brought me a little bottle of yellow Roman glass which 
had been dug out of the old floor inside, and which the 
Governor of Suweida had asked for in vain. I hope it 
may reach home safely. We looked across the ravine to 
the town straggling down the opposite slope and to what 
they call the Castle of Kanawat, a bit of old temple with 
high walls tottering. 

Another young man, As'ad, came with us too and shewed 
us his little hoard of beads found in old tombs as he 
ploughed his fields; he wanted to pour them all in our 
laps, for he was an impetuous young Druse ; but we only 
accepted one each and promised to remember him when 
we wear them: which we certainly will, for he was an 
engaging and handsome young villain, and lifted us over 
stone walls as if we were feathers in his hand ; and had an 
attractive twinkle in his eye when he told us how they used 
to set the petrol of the French tanks on fire and wait to 
shoot the officers as they crawled out, or any little anecdote 
like that. He showed us as many wounds as were on the 
visible parts of him, and described the rest ; and told us of 
two brothers and three cousins killed; and how they had 
aeroplane bombs over their heads all the time; and how 
the men left the village and lived among the rocks of the 
land around; "and what on earth could we do," said he, 
"when there were only 20,000 of us against all the French? 
Every ten years," said he, "we have a war." He said it 
with the air of being quite ready for the next when it 
comes. "The water is mad in our land"; that is how 



r68 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

he explained it. I tried to keep clear of politics ; but they 
are all ready to confide them. It is certainly a differ- 
ent atmosphere from that which surrounds the French 
Intelligence. 

As'ad took us over all the loveliness of Kanawat. There 
is a whole facade remaining of carved grey stone; delicate 
work of traceries, but great cracks already shewing in it. 
Another courtyard with Doric columns, and another 
perfect doorway. A little beyond, and just within the 
old encircling wall, is an arched subterranean place 
which may have been cisterns, and one column standing 
near, the last of six which fell a few years ago and are those 
I saw split up to carry water. The old wall is still traceable 
and stands clear on the east. But everything is crumbling, 
and I doubt if there will be anything left in twenty years 
unless something is done by the government. But even 
the glories of Baalbek have no joy to give like this of 
discovering your own ruins among the quiet fields and 
streets, coming upon them unregarded though even here 
dominant in their unrecognized loveliness. 

Later As'ad took us walking near an hour to Sir at the 
valley head. He said it was ruined by Tamarlane: the 
cannon of Tamarlane he said. It is up on the hill and not a 
stone standing. We did not climb to it, but sat in a little 
lonely temple down below, two windows and a vine-' 
wreathed door of carved stone. It suddenly came upon me 
that part of the beauty of Kanawat is that her stone is grey 
and not black. We wandered among the graves that lie 
thick in the valley. They all seem alike, mounds of stones, 
rough built and round outside and contain a square 
chamber with a carved entrance door, a pillar standing up 
in the middle, and two recesses for bodies on each of the 
three sides. Many are broken in; many still untouched; 
it must have been the graveyard of a wealthy town. We 
walked over the ploughed fields among the green corn and 
the whole surface was broken with shards of red pottery 
once buried with the dead. 

We walked back by the old road between the loose walls 
along the Roman water channel which they are now 
digging out again for Kanawat to drink from. The 
ancient towers of defence, the bases only now remaining, 



KANAWAT l6g 

run all along the valley. The amount of building is 
amazing in all this poor land. Kanawat must have been 
a very big city with suburbs stretching far away. It is a 
peaceful place now, very green to our eyes after the stones 
of Leja. The vineyards spread on every side, the prostrate 
vines now green and shining in the sun, full of flower buds. 

We lunched with As'ad, and then slept peacefully in 
his guest-room for two hours. Were then visited by the 
local secretary, an objectionable man with French educa- 
tion and slightly familiar manner who wanted to sit on our 
side of the hearth, but As'ad shooed him to his own place 
very promptly and decidedly. Chivalry is not a product 
exclusively European. 

After this the Sheikh sent for us and we sat with him in 
his garden in lovely shade of walnut trees. How delicious 
it was! The great boughs threw a twilight over us and 
there was water trickling half unseen: poplars, pome- 
granates, figs, hawthorn and Batm (which I don't know) ; 
the Sheikh's fella-hin were running the water in small 
streams among his potatoes and beans. We talked about 
crops and answered questions about our riches : my income 
impressed him as great wealth, but Venetia, who was asked 
hers in terms of sheep and cows, he did not think much of; 
they do better in America, said he. 

I have a horrid cough and cold which is nothing but 
fatigue ; I find myself longing for silence, or to be able to 
tell Venetia to do the talking for a bit. I keep on forgetting 
that she knows no Arabic and must be translated to, and 
this must be trying for her; but the fact is that I am not fit 
for any extra labour. We are going along in pleasant 
harmony, which is remarkable considering the strain of 
extreme discomfort. I wonder if we shall remember how 
to behave if the Plumers or their A.D.C. invite us to lunch? 
When V. is meditative with downcast eyes, I now know 
that she is merely localizing a flea; and we have been a 
week without getting out of our clothes, and really don't 
mind. 

I suddenly thought of asking to call on the Sheikh's wife 
last night, and we then realized that this had been expected 
of us all along. We were made very welcome and kept 
to supper with the lady. Her handmaid crouched a little 



170 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

way off, and a feeble petroleum lamp gave light. There 
is a disadvantage in eating with the women, and that is 
that since they themselves have done the cooking they take 
a particular pride in it and stuff your mouth with choicest 
morsels. The Sheikh's wife was very genuinely kind. 
There is a feeling of sisterhood which comes out in spite of 
the difference of race and religion, and is pleasant to meet. 
We had another good night after, and left this morning, 
very sorry to see the last of Kanawat. We left our hand- 
some box of Damascus sweets to the Sheikh's wife, and have 
promised to send photos, enlarged the old man promptly 
stipulated, of Sheikh Achmed himself and Ibrahim, his 
son, and Hussein, the most tiresome baby grandchild I 
have ever known. 

We turned down again into the plain, hot already at 
seven in the morning. A temple is recorded at 'Atyl : we 
wanted to see it. But it is gone : built into a new square 
house, the traceries and columns of the doorway let into the 
wall and lost to all significance. One bit of column only 
with a lovely capital remains at the head of some stairs. 
There is a good tank in the village. 

We went on, after a hasty cup of coffee with the Sheikh 
and a few French words with the schoolmaster who came 
rushing out with a khaki overcoat flung on like a toga and 
looking very much like one of the more jovial Roman 
emperors. He came from Lebanon,, and had spent a 
summer at Brumana, so we felt like friends at once. 

It took us three hours, 5.45 to 8.45, from Kanawat to 
Suweida : an old stony track, mostly between walls, below 
the tree level and very hot. 

Here we are in the Sheikh's house, and he is a charming 
man, with a long nose and pointed black beard and flowing 
white drapery round his turban the picture of a gentle- 
manly pirate. 

Si^weida itself is horrid. There is an abomination of a 
red roof in it ,* streets of new houses (most of the old were 
demolished during the fighting) and motors spinning on 
the Damascus road. Things like bicycles in the shops; 
and a restaurant; troops; and a feeling of bourgeois 
militarism which seems characteristic of the French occu- 



SXJWEIDA 171 

pation. We shall try to leave soon. We heard the war 
song of Shahba and saw a large group of cavalry, their red 
head-dresses showing well, moving up the valley. There 
is a public garden ; spotless officers looking at us. Welcome 
is not exactly written on their faces. Our host, however, 
has some influence it seems with passports; he has taken 
ours and says we shall be allowed to go where we like with 
no trouble. If I knew the language and ways a little 
better, I rather think I could get through this country 
without a Frenchman ever knowing anything about it. 
Fun to try. 

We are resting on nice soft mattresses. A mattress on the 
floor is really as comfy a bed as one can want. We start 
in a shoit while. 

Your own FREYA. 

1 02. To her Mother. 

RESAS. 16.5.28. 

DEAREST B., 

Suweida added the last outrage to our feelings by 
producing an Armenian Protestant who talked to us about 
Miss Strong, We felt that civilization was getting us, and 
were glad when our passports came and we could go. No 
one asked to see us : and we did not feel inclined to thrust 
ourselves on anybody's notice, I said we were going to 
see Mut'ib el Atrash in this little village, so that there should 
be no trouble after, especially for him; and as no one 
protested, here we are about an hour and a half's ride 
along the edge of the plain. It is Hauran, a lovely rich 
cornland, soft green and brown, with a far gentle slope of 
hills to the south, and higher tells, wooded here and there, 
to the north and east; Tell el Kuleib, the hill of the small 
dog, rises highest, round and bare. Little tells spring up 
like tiny waves all over the plain, mostly with a village on 
them : they are still black stone, but not the fierce blackness 
of Lcja. 

A railway is just completed from the main Hejaz line to 
Suweida, but so far is only open to the military. As we 
came slowly down the hill by the main road, a kind Druse 



172 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

joined with a helping hand on the donkey's rein and told 
stories of the war. Suweida was the centre of it all ; the 
garrison was beseiged here for months, and two relieving 
columns made away with before they could reach the hills. 
This man spoke with great enthusiasm of a certain Colonel 
Henry (I think it was colonel) who apparently keeps a 
protecting hand over the Druses from across the border. 
He said the English kept the Druse fugitives for a year, but 
then got tired of them, and made them return; after 
arranging, however, for their safety through this same 
colonel, whom they now seem to consider as their accredited 
guardian. 

The man left us at the bottom of the hill. Suweida and 
Europe dropped away like a bad dream. We rode at a 
gentle pace, talking to two women also on donkeys. A 
man in a black 'abeya galloped past, his head swathed to 
the eyes under his kafiye. Najm hailed him and he turned : 
he came from Azrak, where the refugees lived for a long 
time, no doubt giving our Government a good deal to think 
about. I think this man had been in political difficulties. 
He might have been a red-haired Crusader to look at. 
Najm murmured about us, and he came up, very friendly. 
Politics are not to be avoided. He practically told me he 
had come on a message "from over there": Ibn Sa'ud, I 
took it. "Did I know that Ibn Sa'ud had just been given 
Ma'an by the English?" I did not; and what had King 
Abdullah to say to that? "King Abdullah is rather 
weak," my Crusader remarked. He was very cheerful. 
I wondered what was the particular mischief he was up to : 
he evidently thought I was in it loo. The British officers 
in Transjordan are charming, he told me; but my Arabic 
is better than theirs which I hope is not true, for the 
credit of our service. We passed a clear spring welling up 
under a rock : a good sigjit that is. He watered his horse; 
after a couple of hundred yards we came to one of the long 
black tents in the open field. We noticed a great to do: 
welcomes, questions, someone bidding us to dismount : tliis 
was Mut'ib's house and we had arrived at Resas. 

I can't tell you how charming these people are to us. 
Mut'ib's old servant was Salehmy's nurse, and she comes 



RESAS 173 

from Brumana and fell upon our necks. They are all 
camped here ; the big house in their village close by is still 
in ruins : the French blew up all the Atrash houses with 
dynamite. They were their chief enemies, and Mut'ib is 
only four months home from exile. Sultan cl Atrash, the 
head of the clan, being no longer wanted by the British in 
Transjordan, has now gone south to Ibn Sa'ud; I have a 
shrewd suspicion that our red-haired friend was bringing 
news of him. Mut'ib is a kindly-looking man with a 
drooping black moustache and a gentle smile and a 
masterful wife. His cloak is full of bullet-holes. He says 
that its dust-colour makes him difficult to hjt and the 
looseness catches the bullets in its folds. He explains this 
with the rather shy enthusiasm of a man talking about his 
hobbies. His son is like him, and just as amiable, only 
very deaf. Salehmy's letter has given us the welcome of 
dear friends: they are dreadfully put about that we can 
only be received in the open tent, and have devoted all 
the mattresses they usually sleep on themselves to making 
us a soft bed while they take the hard ground. They will 
not hear of our leaving to-day, and we are very happy 
here. We have taken our writing to the top of a little hill 
where a wind is moving the dry grasses, and we are having 
a spell of quiet. 

Of course there is no pretence of neutrality here. One 
can't expect people to sit beside their ruined homes and 
talk nicely of the people who did the mischief, and cut 
down all their trees into the bargain. The village is 
mostly knocked to bits, and they point to every other 
village round about with some bloodthirsty anecdote: 
pacifists the Druses are not. The sight of a gun is like the 
huntsman's horn to a hunter! The fighting in Suweida, 
so they say, was three thousand Druse against eight 
thousand French, and an English colonel talking cinema 
pictures while the battle raged. If this were true, no 
wonder relations might be strained! The Druses lived 
long among the rocks, till these our friends got across 
the border to Azrak and stayed a year, as told above. It 
was then that Sultan went to Ibn Sa'ud while Mut'ib and 
his wife chose exile in Brumana, whence they have now 
come home to their children and fields. They are busy 



174 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

sowing maize, all the family in the tent with their servants 
and animals round them- There is Mut'ib, his wife and 
son, and his sister the Emir Hassan's wife, divorced an 
immense lady with slanting eyes and brows, still with an 
imperious and untrustworthy beauty which must have 
been most alarming and wonderful before she giew so 
stout. There are also four small grandchildren with 
blackened eyes and grimy little faces., followed round by a 
brown-skinned Beduin woman who has come to Mut'ib 
for protection against her husband who wants to kill her. 

An absurd coincidence is going to plunge us more than 
ever into the bad books of the authorities. A lady jour- 
nalist from the Figaro is making the tour of Syria and has 
reached Suweida. All the notables were invited to speak 
to her this morning, and Mut'ib has started with the 
intention of telling exactly what he thinks of things. Our 
arrival yesterday is timed exactly to make us appear 
abettors in this expression of feeling. 

We talked of many things last night in the guest-room 
of the tent with one side open to the evening as darkness 
crept down the hills. The women sat with us, rather 
careless about their veils, for there was only Najm, and he 
is a distant relation, and besides, these are great ladies and 
less troubled than lesser folk by conventions. We drank 
coffee over the primus stove and Mut'ib told me about the 
Druse religion a little. There are five million Druses in 
, India, he says, living under another name. My guess in 
Kanawat was correct. There are Druses in Algiers, 
Constantinople, and Philadelphia, where, he says, they go 
by the name of Quakers. The idea of Mr. Fox as a Druse 
filled me with joy. I asked Mut'ib whether he meant the 
Druses who, like all Syrians, emigrate in great quantities 
to the States ; but he said no, they are an independent sect 
of Druses called Quakers. He was a little shaken when I 
told him that the masters at Brumana school are mostly 
Quakers ; arid more dubious still when I said that Quakers 
are non-combatants. "Then they cannot be real Druses/ 3 
said he. 

We were being eaten alive meanwhile, and were very 
languid for food : ten hours since the last meal, and it was 



RESAS 175 

9.30 and the talk going round to the Divinity of Christ; 
I felt the words wandering from me in a mist ; it had gone 
on solidly for three hours. Lucky Venetia who could be 
silent, drooping in the shadow of her hat ; and 'Arif, who 
just curled himself on the floor and slept ! Venetia says 
that the first three mouthfuls of dinner gave my voice 
quite a different ring! It was a splendid dinner: chicken 
on rice, beans, lice pudding, coffee, the delicious coffee 
freshly made which we shall miss so often. 

The bed was made up in our dining-room; three mat- 
tresses and two yellow quilts. We were taken out by the 
nurse from Lebanon for a little preliminary walk into the 
landscape . . . with a lantern; picking our way among 
sleeping animals in the starlight. The whole tent looked 
very busy and homelike, lighted up, as the servants moved 
here and there preparing for the night, the five divisions 
shewing open like the rooms in a doll's house. Delicious 
sleep in a tent; with the camel tethered outside, and the 
gentle flap of the hair cloth in the night wind ; the sense of 
great spaces around us, and silence and the nearness of 
the stars. Mut'ib has ideas, too, of Western requirements 
and tied a sheet across the open side, so that we slept 
undisturbed till 5.30, when the sun came up over the 
shoulder of Kuleib. 

Your own FREYA. 

103. To her Mother. 

SALHAD. 17.5.28. 

DEAREST B., 

Our day finished very quietly yesterday one of 
the best we have had. One would get very fond of that 
broad land, treeless but full of lights and swelling lines like 
the sea. We took a family group of Mut'ib and his grand- 
children and then wandered a little in the sunset. We 
have not been so comfortable anywhere in our travels, not 
even in the official luxury of Shahba. And we grew fond 
of our hosts* To-day, as we trudged along a stony land 
in the heat, Najm told me the story of lachya Bey, the 
father of our hostess, who rode with a friend from Damascus 



1^6 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

to Suweida bearing a letter to the Wali there from the 
Turkish governor. The letter gave orders for the bearer 
to be poisoned. As they went along the two friends both 
had suspicions, and lachya's companion suggested breaking 
the seal before going any further; but lachya refused. 
The Suweida Wali was his friend, and unwilling : he put the 
poison in the cups, but made a signal by wringing his hands, 
lachya J s comrade understood and poured the coffee under 
his kafiye, and was saved; but lachya drank: he left the 
house, and fell dead a few steps down the street. 

Najm told me this in the hottest and stoniest of wilder- 
nesses this morning because I was objecting to his reading 
my letters to the notables here. And because we have been 
cross with him he is suffering from headache and depres- 
sion. We began to be annoyed yesterday when he set 
about shaving just in front of us. I don't see why anyone 
should do that without asking permission just because he 
happens to be a Druse! Then he woke us at four this 
morning and kept us waiting, crosser and crosser, till six 
for our breakfast! I ask you. Then he forgot to fill our 
bottles with the good water, and his table manners are 
sometimes insupportable; and finally we do not see why 
he should always ride and little 'Arif walk. Now he has 
another and better reason for depression, for our French 
letter has brought us to the house of a genuinely francophil 
Druse, the father of the Interpreter at Shahba, and an 
enemy of Mut'ib's. I would not have come if I had 
known. He began to speak of Mut'ib, and I had to shut 
him up and say that he was our friend and that we had 
eaten in his house. 

Your own FREYA, 



104. To her Mother. 

SALHAD. 18.5.28. 
DEAREST B., 

We had a long ride yesterday six hours, ending at 
i p.m., all stones and not a tree. We climbed up into the 
hills again and found Hebron, a beautifully high-placed 
village with old doors and carvings scattered about but no 



SALHAD 177 

building intact in particular : it must have changed a great 
deal since Porter's day. Below it was a big shallow lake 
full of sweet-smelling water flowers ; women washing clothes 
and boys playing, riding bareback donkeys; as gentle a 
scene as is possible in the land of black stone. Venetia 
walked round to get a picture, while I sat on lateem it is 
I who call my small donkey the Orphan sucking an 
orange, and was just handing the skin down to his little 
grey muzzle, for he has a passion for it, when an old man 
came and begged it for his children. Oranges are the 
extreme of luxury in the Jebel. I got him a fresh one out 
of the bag and left him very pleased. 

We rode along a rough track over stony country. A man 
on a camel followed us, swaying on his high saddle in the 
sun; it looks as if the movement should hypnotize one 
completely. We came to a little stream, and shepherds 
with flocks, and there cut into the road from Suweida to 
Salhad. Shossa they call it here, and I puzzled over the 
etymology till I suddenly thought it must be from " chaussee." 
Its surface is not even, but Syrian cars do not mind it. 
We met one, but it seemed to take nothing from the lone- 
liness. 

It got hotter and hotter, Salhad was invisible and 
ever farther ofT. A desolate land of grey stones in heaps. 
At our back was the central group of the Jebel, Kuleib 
rising from among it with smooth reddish slopes. The 
colours in these volcano rocks, and the sun and the dis- 
tances threw an enchantment over the barrenness. We 
passed one village on our left, and people, and camels 
grazing with frisking foals on a strip of greenness. We 
thought we should never reach Salhad. But we turned a 
corner at last and saw it unexpectedly, a great Arab pile 
on a hill jutting into the plain ; another hill opposite on 
the south, also jutting out, gives it the aspect of a gateway 
through which the Roman road runs straight from Bosra 
to Salhad, from Salhad to the desert. 

Our host is a talkative, plausible man, with an eye for 
the things of this world, full of hospitality and enthusiastic 
for the French. His eyes are heavily blackened and his 
teeth profusely gilded, and he lives in an old vaulted 



178 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

Roman bath which, he says truly, is not attractive as a 
dwelling but he is fond of it because it came to him from 
his father. His country house is what he is proud of, and 
he has been planting trees there ; and he is proud of his 
one son and was pleased to hear news of him; and told 
us that he was going to send him to finish his education 
as a concierge in America, and that he was all in favour 
of civilization. He shewed us all the process of the coffee- 
making, cooked and poured in diminishing quantities 
through four coffee-pots, the last flavoured with cardamom 
and verbena. His are the genuine old coffee-pots ; made 
with no join out of one sheet of brass ; he showed us how 
to know them; and they had beautiful handles of brass 
and leather plaited together very small. A nicely kept 
coffee hearth is a pleasant sight. In the great houses the 
fire is always ready burning, but mostly there are only the 
ashes, and a little burning charcoal is brought quickly 
when the guest arrives. 

We had a letter to the Salhad Intelligence lieutenant, 
and went up the village after our meal to hand it in. We 
passed a tank as big as a small lake and climbed up the 
straggling street through crowds of Moroccan troops until 
we met the surprising vision of a fair young man in tennis 
clothes walking along with a racquet. This was Philip 
Effendi, the Interpreter, a charming Greek from Cyprus, 
and a British subject ; he sees nothing at all strange in our 
predilection for donkeys, and does not think us spies, and 
is the first man we have met to talk at all rationally about 
things here, I believe he feels exactly as we do about the 
military. We had to wait a long time before we could 
get a permit from the Commandant of the garrison to visit 
the citadel, and he murmured to me that: "Soldiers have 
too much imagination ; they always see things that are not 
there." He took us to see the Intelligence man, Lieutenant 
Henri, who is a Norman and even more handsome to look 
at than the Interpreter. He cannot be more than twenty- 
two or twenty-three. All the Intelligence Officers out 
here seem to be very young. 

We were invited to dinner, and then finally got the 
permit for the citadel, and a soldier took us climbing up a 
long steep way through barbed wire, the whole place like 



SALHAD 179 

a rabbit warren for troops and guns : the ugly black muzzles 
stick out at every angle, with ammunition stacked close 
by and the sentinels in readiness. It was very like war 
days, A concentration camp on our left as we climbed, 
with eighty Druses behind the wire living in tents. They 
say it is only during the last four months that the country 
has become safe at all; and Salhad is near the eastern 
edge of it. Not a tourist place, we felt: though two 
Americans have been here before us. 

The old fortress is round, the slanting outer ramparts 
fairly intact, but everything crumbled away inside: the 
garrison has scooped out rooms and dug-outs among the 
debris, and gun emplacements to sweep the land. The 
view is unforgettable : the hills of the Jebel like waves on 
the north and west, and Hcrmon far away with the sunset 
behind him. We looked down on to the black flat roofs 
of the town, a sheer drop ; then out into the sunset-coloured 
plain, where the straight road ran like an arrow, out to 
the very borders of Law. Our castle shadow lay on it 
like an immense triangle. We stayed watching while the 
evening turned to blue dusk. There is something threaten- 
ing in that emptiness. 

We had a very agreeable evening. We were given 
water to wash in, and eau de Cologne and a mirror, every 
luxury. My throat makes it agony to talk, or I should 
have enjoyed it more. Our Druse was there too, so that 
his feelings might not suffer at our absence from his house : 
a very different attitude from that of Shahba, Lieutenant 
Henri and his Interpreter are in fact gentlemen, and I 
think they were as pleased as we to sit and talk of books 
and Paris and the pleasant things of life. They were 
interrupted at their meal and had to leave us. Beduin 
raiders had come across the border to loot camels at about 
four hours 9 distance on horseback. We heard details this 
morning: there were twelve raiders and they carried off 
the camels from some Druse Beduin. The native police 
followed and killed them all, losing three of their own men 
and six wounded, and apparently two French non-com- 
missioned officers wounded, but we were not able to know 
this for certain. Lieutenant Henri told me that these 



l8o LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

things happen in summer, as soon as food is becoming 
scarce. He was very polite, but it is evident that they all 
consider British laxity in Transjordania to be responsible 
for these irregularities. We did not feel it a good moment 
to uphold the Expression of Individuality ! This morning 
they have all been taken up with the burial of the poor 
men; riding of posts and champing of bits and galloping 
horses. The Intelligence Officer has come over from 
Suweida and looked at us suspiciously, asking how we 
got through without his knowledge : this is more than we 
can tell him. We should have liked to attend the burial, 
but were not invited : which makes one rather think there 
may be some truth in the story of French casualties. Our 
host here says that the Druses never pray over the dead 
who have died in battle. 

We had no time to wander over Salhad town last night. 
This morning the lieutenant tempted us with the offer of a 
real tub, and the road to Bosra looks so dusty and mono- 
tonous, that we decided to let Najm go on with the donkeys 
while we take things easily and follow by car. 

We are running out of films, and took only two photos : 
the lions carved on the old gate-posts and the mosque and 
its minaret, which is a charming little hexagonal tower. 
The mosque has only its arches left. The little town is 
different from the others we have seen, for it seems to be 
completely Moslem; inscriptions everywhere, and stone 
window lattices, primitive but good: we have not seen 
these elsewhere. 

Your own FREYA, 



105. To her Mother. 

BOSRA ESKI SHAM. 18.5.38. 
DEAREST B., 

We have come to Bosra by car, a very flat, dull 
road, and we are now in the Sheikh's house. We have left 
the Druses; they are all Moslems here. The house very- 
grand with glass window-panes and chairs (though we 
don't use them). Dozens of children and flics, and one 
of the children's hair being 'combed, filling us with anxiety 



BOSkA 

and discomfort. The town has an immense castle, also 
Saracen thirteenth century and it looks as if there were 
many lovely things, but we must wait till it gets cooler. 
It was 37 Cent, in the shade, and is hotter now; and I 
cannot shake off my disgusting throat. How nice it will 
be to lie in bed in Jerusalem and look at clean clothes 
ready for one ! 

Your own FREYA. 



1 06. To her Mother, 

TRANSJORDANIA. 19.5,28. 

DARLING B., 

Our only experience of a night among the Moslems 
was rather awful. We never thought there were so many 
varieties of biting things, and longed for the morning; and 
we slept in the harem with two ladies whose mattress was 
close to ours, so that we could not fling Keating's about 
too openly. 

Bosra is a wonderful old town; a Roman provincial 
capital with the straight road running to its ancient gate 
and ruins on either hand. There are great parts of it 
uninhabited on either side of the old pavement. The city 
gate is ruined, but on the way down to it one goes by a 
perfect arch still standing, lovely in proportion. That also 
is cracked right across. A little off the main road is the 
Christian church, which became a mosque : we sat among 
the columns, their marble yellow and rose-coloured in the 
evening light, and the make of the old stone roof shewing 
very clearly. The little tower was also roofed with stone. 
None of this building is younger than the fifth century. 

We found another little gem of a mosque,, also a con- 
verted church it must have been. The stone slabs of its 
doors are intact and the stone trellis windows. An old 
tree and temple columns stand beside it, and a square 
stone tower; and here Muhammed, in his youthful tra- 
velling, is said to have first learnt about Christianity from 
an old monk in Bosra a doubtful story. 

But the castle is the best of all. It is a mass of huge 
square buildings with a fosse round, and a bridge, and the 



l82 LETTERS #ROM SYRIA 

Saracens built it round the Roman theatre. We have 
become familiar with garrisons now. We never hesitated 
to go up and say that we wished to look over their citadel, 
which is armed to the teeth, like Salhad. The two officers 
we applied to themselves conducted us, after calling an 
Algerian trooper with a lamp. The whole centre of the 
theatre is filled in and three great halls built in it; one 
above the other, the lowest not yet explored and none of 
them lighted (except perhaps the top one). We climbed 
down by the theatre steps and along the subterranean 
passages which once ran round the tiers of seats. Here 
and there some marble columns gleam under the lamp, 
walled in the rough stone. The old porticoes were turned 
by the Arabs to defence. In the heart of the place is a dark 
damp mosque built by Saladin, with an inscription; and 
there are Arabic lines running round the outer walls too. 
The Algerians look well with their baggy light uniforms 
and turbaned heads under the old walls and arches. We 
saw them riding through the streets of the town, a splash 
of colour, on high medieval saddles, with the black- 
bearded Moslems scowling at them from their doors, 

As we came away I stopped to look at a stone built into " 
the wall of a house. It gave the name of the third legion. 
The French Intelligence officer beside me told me that this 
was the Gallic Legion. He said it as if the French had 
been settled here ever since, A terribly dangerous thing 
is history. 

They have a curious ornament over many of the Bosra 
gateways : a kind of small parapet built out of mud and 
straw, and little flags stuck into it, ostrich feathers and long 
streamers of any old stuff. All I could discover about 
them is that they are put up when a boy is born in the house. 

We got home quite late and sat down to wait for supper* 
It is the stranger host's duty to put himself about for his 
guests, and our twelve days have taught us to take this 
for granted. But after the respect and friendliness of the 
Druses, we felt our female inferiority rather acutely among 
the Moslems, for we sat with the women on the far side of 
the coffee hearth and the men came dropping in, heavily 
bearded and fierce to look at, and never spoke to us; and, 



BOSRA 183 

when the coffee was ready they all drank first, and then 
sent only the little son of the house in his long blue gown 
and bare feet to carry us the cups. The women, dressed 
in blue like the Beduins or the Christians of Leja, sat with 
us unveiled. 

There was a sensation, however, before we reached the 
coffee stage. The door was flung open and* two native 
soldiers strode in. All sprang to their feet except Venetia 
and I, They came up and asked us to spend the evening 
with the Commandant in the fortress. The Arabs, all 
standing in a circle, waited for our reply. It was already 
late, and it meant going right across the dark town with 
two rough-looking soldiers, and insulting our host by 
leaving his coffee untasted; and all to see uninteresting 
Frenchmen. We excused ourselves politely. The soldiers 
looked with stupefaction. You might have heard a pin 
drop in the room. After a prodigious pause, one of them 
exclaimed : " You arc women; and tired : the Commandant 
will pardon you"; then they turned on their heels and 
left. 

Silence followed. The assembly settled back to continue 
the interrupted evening; but we felt it was a moral victory, 
and that our audience was pleased. Presently the lady of 
the house murmured that we were quite right not to 
"venture at night among the French soldiers," which 
view of the question had not struck us. As no British 
ladies arc remembered to have stayed here before, 1 hope 
we may have established a national reputation for pro- 
priety ! 

We were taken to sleep in the harem. The Sheikh's 
young wife was having her hands tattooed ; they were caked 
over with wet earth and tied up in rags, and she and her 
friend lay on a mattress close beside us. The mother-in- 
law locked us in with a big key which she afterwards 
threw in through the window. Half-way through the 
night we could bear it no longer, and thought we would 
risk the wickedness of the Moslems rather than suffocation. 
We consulted with the ladies, and unlocked the door (with 
some trepidation because of mother-in-law) : we flung it 
wide and were able to breathe. 

This morning our host gave us the most friendly send- 



184 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

off. Our humiliation was due to our sex and not personal. 
He told us that the greatest pleasure we could ever give 
him was to come and stay again, and pressed my hand 
over and over: and I feel sure it is because of what we said 
to the soldiers. We sat for a while watching the mounted 
troops out in the open manoeuvring : wild galloping squares 
and circles, the dust flying, the sun catching the red and 
white as they turned. 

There is a railway line at Bosra, and we said good-bye 
to Najm at the station; to Najm and 'Arif and our three 
little donkeys. A sad parting. Najm will travel slowly 
home by Damascus. 

Your own FREYA. 

107. To her Mother. 

APPROACHING JERUSALEM. 20.5.28, 

DARLING B., 

We are now climbing up from Jericho to Jerusalem 
a boiling drive through desolate hills that look as if all 
life had deserted them centuries ago. 

We did not take the smart little train from Bosra after 
all, but a car which bumped us along an hour or so earlier. 
It was no pleasure falling among Christian chauffeurs 
again what a set of bragging, inefficient persons we have 
had since yesterday ! We got rid of the first little man at 
Der'aa with thankfulness, and after having our passports 
seen to there no difficulties at all over our leaving the 
country, and much politeness we asked the obliging 
Armenian waiter if he could not get a car for Jerusalem. 
A six-hours' ride in a 1928 Hudson was promised us. The 
outside of this model was not so varnished and shining as 
one might expect, but the chauffeur and his club-footed 
young brother seemed full of confidence and cheerfulness. 

At the first village, Remte, King Abdulla's policeman 
discovered one passport missing; he was obliging and let the 
boy through after taking his name. They are fine-looking 
police with their chain-mail shoulder straps, and have been 
all the military in sight so far: a contrast to Syria. At 
Irbid, the next little town, we stopped again and were 
asked to change into a miserable, uncomfortable little 



JERASH 185 

Dodge car: we refused: the village gathered round and 
tried explanations in every language; we continued to 
refuse in bajd but positive Arabic and explained that the 
car was ours till Jerusalem, and we meant to sit in it till we 
got there. Seeing us obstinate, the village finally decided 
we must be right. The little Dodge went off packed with 
more Arabs than it was intended to hold, and we went 
happily along in great spirits and harmony till our first 
puncture; it was soon mended, but we here discovered 
that we had no spare wheel except an ancient object 
apparently put on for ornament. 

We went through very lovely rich country, deep valley 
cuts and up again among hills ; gradually to trees and real 
woods, through corn waving in loneliness, so that one 
wonders who comes to reap there. The villages are the 
warm yellow of the Damascus mud-building : we stopped 
at one to get water: a fair young Bcduin girl drew it up 
for us from the covered well, looking very ancient and 
clothing even the old petroleum tin she used as a bucket 
with the poetry of the old stories : she would take no money 
for the hard labour. 

Suddenly, just as I had been drowsing in the hot aftei- 
noon, we turned a corner and saw the temples and pillars 
of Jerash lying in a cup of the yellow hills above the trees 
and stream which divide them from the new town: you 
can't imagine more lovely ruins: a long Roman street 
ending in a circular forum of Corinthian pillars, nearly all 
standing; as you walk along the ancient pavement you 
see the whole length of the street, the ruts of ancient carts, 
the great fountain, a gateway, and the other steep street 
leading from the bridge to the temple of Astarte, whose 
orange-coloured pillars stand high above against the sky. 
Theatres and baths and gates they are all there, half 
overgrown with plants and coloured to indescribable 
loveliness: still unspoilt, though an Italian engineer and 
an American mission are working there and will soon take 
away the perfect charm; they arc restoring the great gate, 
but so far it is still the ancient town half lost in its lonely 
hillside, its pillars and stones the same warm yellow of the 
landscape, its secrets still left to the imagination. 



186 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

We walked up and down the ancient street, and called 
on the engineer, Signor Ricci, a nice little mild man with 
an artistic pointed beard and untidy hair, and a dis- 
crimination in beautiful things rather refreshing after life 
among the Druses. He gave us orange water in a room 
full of lovely carpets and weavings and talked about the 
worked stones one sees so often here, the edges chiselled 
and centre left rough : apparently this was a Greek inven- 
tion, as they used to smooth over their stones after placing 
them, and so discovered the effectiveness of leaving the 
rough centres. I saw these stones at Jubeil and Salhad, 
and in lots of places. The system of shoving old bits of 
columns into their walls, lengthways like sausages, was, it 
seems, typically Mahommedan ; one; sees, that often, also, 
and it has an absurdly undignified effect. 

Your own FREYA. 



1 08. To her Mother. 

JERUSALEM. 20.5.28. 

DARLING B., 

We found our chauffeur very cross when we had loitered 
over an hour in Jerash, and discovered that he had been 
inventing the "six hours" to Jerusalem and that we could 
not think of getting there under seven or eight. He had 
also drunk the water from our water bottle and filled it 
with a horrid-looking turbid liquid. He began to feel that 
we did not like him. When the second puncture found us 
on a great lonely height near sunset, and Venctia dis- 
covered that he had not the faintest notion of the inside of 
a car, we liked him even less, and his brother less than him, 

We had a wonderful drive : it is all a huge country, and 
the road keeps high up, looking down into steep wadis, 
now red with oleanders : we left the olives and pines and 
oak trees and came again to bare country, but grand, and 
in colour lovely browns like some gigantic Dartmoor in 
its russety seasons. A glorious country to ride over: 
lonely but not wild perhaps the feeling of the good road, 
and the views of it from inside a car, took its wildncss 
away: and when we did come to a village, it had glass 



JERICHO 187 

windows and electric light, and it was at the peaceful 
moment when the cattle come home to their stables. We 
stopped at a spring outside to fill up with water. We 
realized by now that the radiator leaked, and I spoke with 
an old Arab and discovered that my language goes well 
enough this side of the border also. 

By the time we reached Es Salt it was dark : we could 
only sec a fine pile of houses built up the hillside. We had 
had no lunch only an orange and biscuits and even our 
tummies, now so well trained, were feeling languid. When 
it came to lighting the lamps, of course these were all out 
of order : we spent a long time over that and then sped 
down carefully (for it was evidently the man's first drive 
by night) into the Jordan valley, the air coming in hot 
blasts off the rock, as hot as the air from an oven. It was 
like descending into hell, the black valley and fierce hot 
air. The last village before Jericho was already on the 
flat strip of Jordan land : there were people sitting round 
lamps at supper, as little clothed as they could be in the 
stifling heat. Our chauffeur, now rather dazed with 
fatigue and stupidity, found us four raw eggs, which we 
sucked: they were tepid and not really attractive. Then 
we made for Jordan across sandy flat land broken into 
clefts, overgrown with tamarisk bushes (I think) that 
sprang suddenly into the lamplight. The fierce air grew 
hotter and hotter. 

The road was marked by stones, but the man was always 
losing it and the tamarisk bushes seemed to close in round 
him. I stopped him just in time we were going over 
into one of the steep little ravines, were close upon the 
edge of it in fact. I think he was thoroughly demoralised; 
and it was a most fantastic ride. We got to the long 
wooden covered bridge over Jordan about nine o'clock; 
were let through by the Transjordan police with lots of 
advice, but all heterogeneous; saw a gleam of water in, 
the starlight; found the chain already up on the Palestine 
side and an amiable but I believe slightly drunk policeman 
who suggested accompanying us. "Is it only clothes in 
your luggage? Never mind," says he, and with this 
strange remark we shoot off among the tamarisks again, 
but on the good road this time, and reach Jericho near 



l88 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

(en o'clock. We found a very clean, pleasant little hotel, 
trying to feel cool by calling itself Winter Palace : we had 
tea and marmalade for breakfast, after tea and ginger 
beer at supper : we felt we were in British territory. 

This morning we caught just one glimpse of the Dead 
Sea, a solid grey-blue among the dead streaks of its moun- 
tains. You climb up through these hard ranges, no 
vegetation, nothing but the hot baked rock, till you reach 
the high land a few olives, a few stubbly patches of 
wheat, new square religious buildings on the hillsides, and 
then Jerusalem suddenly, all its varieties of architecture 
and beliefs gathered in the squareness of the medieval 
walls : it was impressive in an unexpected way and in spite 
of all the ugly details. 

We have settled in at the Franciscan hospice Casanova 
and sent all our accumulated clothes to be washed, and 
feel incredibly luxurious. Venetia went to get our nice 
clothes from the agent, and came back with the surprising 
news that it is Sunday. It is two weeks since we reached 
Damascus : and we have never counted time as a positive 
matter in this interval. How good it has all been: the 
discomforts vanish, at least from active memory; and the 
loveliness of it all remains and grows. And the joy is that 
I have been able to do it after all, and the silly old body 
has really played up rather well considering. 

We shall take it easy now rest complete for two days, 
then send my letter to the Governor's A.D.C, and try to 
put ourselves into decent clothes again. It is nice of me to 
go about with Venetia because, of course, no one looks at 
me when she is about: perhaps there will be enough 
charming young men to go round. 

Love to you both, dear B. I hope my writing is not too 
illegible. 

Your own FREYA. 



5 . POSTSCRIPTS FROM ASOLO AND BRUMANA. 

109. To Miss Buddicom. 

ASOLO. 23.6.28. 
DEAREST VENETIA, 

I have just had a note from Mr. E. in Brumana. 
He says we have left "a trail of surmises and not a little 
dust"; that the people there "fail to see why you should 
choose to live and perhaps die in the slums of Damascus 
merely because you wish to learn Arabic. Neither can 
they see why you should choose to stay in a native house- 
hold, rather than at a public hotel of known repute 
in the company of a wide circle of English, French, and 
German-speaking people. As for the venture in the 
Desert, that indeed is difficult to understand! Is it likely 
that you would wish to risk your skin merely to see a pile 
of ugly old ruins, and is it likely that your friend would 
wish to risk her skin merely to keep you company? And 
why should you be so friendly with the Druses? And 
anyway why arc you so specially interested in people 
who must still be regarded as something of a menace to 
the existing government? And how did you manage to 
get such valuable introductions?" He ends: "I merely 
repeat the sort of rumours that have been floating about. 
If you should ever come out here again before you are 
completely forgotten, you will be a character crusted over 
with quite a mythology: people will knit their troubled 
brows in obvious perplexity." 

So that's that!! 

Have you heard about Liverpool sailings? It will be 
for end of September I should say. 

Your loving FREYA. 

no. To Miss Buddicom. 

BRUMANA. 8.10.29. 
DEAREST VENETIA, 

It was very like old times going to see Najm yester- 



190 LETTERS FROM SYRIA 

day. I found his house in the middle of a crimson sunset 
on the other side of Brumana ridge, and three little girls 
playing about the doorstep. Najm's wife was there and I 
was just explaining myself when a large lady overwhelmed 
me with embraces, and turned out to be the Nurse of 
Resas, the one in whose house Najm shaved so much to 
your annoyance. Najm himself was having a bath and 
soon appeared swathed in white and very cordial, and I 
had a great time hearing the news and all the complications 
that followed us. Najm had been back for some months 
trying to set up a shop in Suweida and saw all our friends 
and none of them ever received a single photo ! ! Isn't this 
too bad. I said I would write at once and ask you to send 
a new lot, and I am meanwhile writing to Kanawat and 
Resas to explain. 

Najm declares that he wrote to me twice, and of course 
I never received the letters. Well, he told me he went to 
Shahba with a load of samn, and happened to meet the 
Mustashar, who stopped him and said: "Who are you? 
I seem to know your face." Najm explained, and the 
Mustashar told him that it was lucky for Najm that we 
left when we did, as he was going to put him in prison for 
a month, the reason being partly because he had told us 
of the cross-questionings that had 'been inflicted on him 
and so let us know that we were under suspicion; and 
pfartly because someone had reported what the man 
at Salhad had said against Mut'ib and how we had 
snubbed him, and a furious quarrel had sprung up in 
consequence. 

The Mustashar has since been in Beirut and came up 
here and visited Najm in a friendly way, so all is well; 
and is now somewhere up the coast, just where I should 
like to travel in the Spring. I think I may call on him 
some time and see what he is like under less trying 
circumstances. 

I am going for a four days' trek across the hills to the 
source of the Stream of Adonis, and shall then follow it 
down to the sea. Will let you hear, 

Dear love to you, 

FREYA. 



A FORTUNATE ESCAPE IQI 

in. To Miss Buddicom. 

BRUMANA. 15.10.29. 
DEAREST VENETIA, 

I have had four glorious days on a mule with Najm 
up over the hills to Afka and down the Adonis stream. 
I found two great temples. . No columns standing, but 
only the tracing of the walls. I did miss you so! .1 also 
came to the conclusion that I cannot bear Najm's table 
manners when I have them all to myself! 

He told me by the way that we really had been very 
lucky in the matter of escaping raids on our trip. At 
Redeme the road was only just clear of bandits. They 
had come by night, and though the people had weapons 
they could not use them for fear of letting the authorities 
know that they possessed them ; but they caught and beat 
the thieves and handed them over to the police. Where- 
upon the bandits who escaped infested that bit of road we 
trotted along in the dark! and they had only just been 
cleared away. Then, on the way back, Najm had to 
make a long detour, as the east of Leja was unsafe altogether. 
So we were really very carefully guarded by that immoral 
Providence which attends the reckless. 

I hope I shall reach Baghdad with all my luggage 
intact. I am economizing and going by a native car 
instead of the official Nairn. 

Your loving FREYA. 



INDEX 



Achmed cl Hajari, Sheikh, 



Acropolis, 5 

Adalia, 16 

Adonis stream, 81, 190. 

Alexandra Paul, 61, 64, 68, 

84, 116, 118, 119. 
Andorra, 25, 28. 
Antioch, 19-21. 
Athens, 5. 
'Atyl, 170. 
Audi, MUe, 23, 25, 29, 33, 35, 

3.6, 39> 4i-2, 51-2, 54, 56-7, 

62, 67-9, 71-2, 74~5> i, 

124. 

Baghdad, 28, 38, 43, 58, 91, 

Baalbek, 27, 127-9, J 68. 
Barada, 90, 117, 120. 
Bari, 2. 
Barker, Mrs. Ernest, Letters to, 

^ ? 3 > 5 6 ' 

Beirut, 54-5, 57, 59, 62, 67. 
Benetti, Signor, 10-13. 
Bosra eski Sham, 180-4. 
Brindisi, 2, 4. 
Brumana, 24-86, 121-6, 189- 

9** 

Buddicom, Miss V., 46, 63, 83, 
125-6. 

Letters to, 2, 18, 24, 28, 36, 
43> 58, 63, 94, 122, x8, 
189, 190. 
Byblos, 51, 70, 78, 8o~x. 

Charaoun, Mr., 46, 53, 55, 

7I , 78, 81, 84. 
Corfu, 3, 127. 
Corinth, 4. 
Crusaders, 82. 

Damascus, 43, 63, 77-9, 87- 

I2i 9 130-31, 

Great Mosque, 103, 122. 
Deir AH, 



Dcir el Qal'a, 64. 

Dog River, inscriptions, 

Druses, 28, 34, 41, 46, 48, 65, 

77, 82-3, 131-80. 
massacre of 1860, 45, 107. 

Edmunds, Mr., 58, 74-8, 80- 1, 
84~5, ii2, 115-17. 123, 
125-6, 189. 

Fiume, i. 

Fox, Mr. and Mrs., 23-4, 27, 
46, 55, 58, 75? 82. 

Henri, Lieut., 178-80. 
Hcrmon, Mt. 99, 120, 128, 

'32, 134. 179; 
Hyanc, Lake of, no-n. 
Horlick, Lady, see Oppen- 

hcimer, Lady (Francis). 

Ionian Sea, 4. 
Ithaca, 4. 

erash, 185-6. 
'ericho, 187. 
erusalem, 188. 

eyes, Mrs., Letters to, 23, 25, 
38, 46, 52, 62, 82, 1 06, 121. 

Kanawat, 163-70. 

Ker, Miss C. A,, Letters to, 19, 

48. 
Ker, Miss Penelope, Letter to, 

1 08. 

Larnaca, 18. 

Lawrence, T. E., 39, 47, 53. 

Lindos, u. 

Macchia, zi. 

Malona, 11. 

Manasseh, Dr. and Mrs., 27-8, 

36, 38, 57-8, 62, 67, 70-1, 

73, 78, 82. 



194 INDEX 

Marvell, Andrew, quoted, 59. 
Mersina, 18. 

Mus tashar (at Shahba),' 1 49-6 1 . 
Mut'ib el Atrash, 171-6. 

Najm, 85, 129-84, 189-91. 

Olivier, Mrs. Herbert, Letter 
to, 40. 

Oppenheimer, Lady (Fran- 
cis), Letter to, 90. 

Redeme, 144-7, 191. 
Resas, 172-5, 189. 
Rhodes, 6-15, 127. 
H. E. Governor of, 9, 14. 
Rhodian pottery, 12. 
Robertson, Mrs., 71; 
Letter to, 29. 

Salehmy, 23, 26, 32, 47, 54-5, 
57, 6o~i, 64, 72, 75; 77, 79, 
83-4, 100. 

Salhad, 177-80. 

Satow, Mrs., 55. 

Sawara el Kebir, 140-3. 

Shahba, 148-59. 

Sir, 1 68. 



Sknne, Clarmont P., Letter 

to, 59- 
Spalato, 3. 
Stark, Robert, Letters to, 3, 5, 

7, *5, 3945>5i, 56, 71, 76, 

79, 87, 95, I/O, I2 7- 
Stark, Mrs. Flora, Letters to, 

1,6,9, 13,21,26,35,37,42, 
46, 54, 5, 60, 64, 67, 68, 70, 
72, 73, 75, 78, 83, 85, 88, 93, 
94, 97, 98, 99, ioo, 101, 
103, 105, 112, 114, 115, 123, 
125, 126, 130, 131, 133,136, 
144, 148, 151, 155, 160, 161, 
166, 171, 175, 176, 180, 181, 
184, 1 86. 

Suleime, 162-3. 

Suweida, 170-1. 

Thompson, Mrs. Aidan, Let- 
ters to, 31, 50, 91. 
Tripoli, 21. 

Waller, Lady, Letter lo, 65. 

Young, Heibert, 68; 
Letters to, 44, 66, 69. 




i/mdos, Rhodes (/wi>c 




Cons (ill hills o( Syrizi (page //;) 




jj, As|>li<KloIs ovor Syrian nuns 




**.**' 




4- Flocks oftho Bocluin (page 118) 
Hawking in Syrian cnruficlds 




5. (hilling lh< k com 




6. Roman ruins at Bjuilhck 




7- (irojil Mosque, Dnniasnis 




8 In a Damascus bazaar (page ioj} 




A cobbler ni Damascus (page 7/7) 




io Escort firnL seen (page /^; 




u, Fn^ya Siark, Najni and 'Arif (/^ 





12 Groups at Ddr AH (pagr 




j;{. Slow dnois at Ititrak j/w/f< ( /;$ 




14. Freya Stark and J At if by the well at Rede me (frige //./) 
Inside the guest room at Redcme (page /./5) 




5. Boduiu girl dancing near >Sh 
(loflcepoLs (page is 




16 School childicn at Rodnnc (/^ /,/;) 




17. Miss BmUliroin and I'Ymdi oflhrrs at Shaliba (pages 




1 8. Circular temple at Kumuvat (frige 
Little theatre in the rnvine (page i 




t<), Uuius at K.UM\\.I 




20. Rums at Knmwal (page 168) 

Temple ruins below Sir (page 168} 




yi. 'I IK' rastlr tfunril at Bosra (/tag? ////} 
(Ihildn-n in }>',iu*u'jiy at 'Atyl (lMg<* tfit) 




22. Mut'ib and bus ginnddiilchvn at Rcsas [page 775) 
Making butter at Rcsas 







Mul'ih\s t( k nt at R<\sa 

Ruiii( k (l mosque nticl minaret al Sjilhatl (page 




Mut'ib and his giwKkhilchpn at Rosas (page 
Making butter at Rc-srts 




Mui1b\s lent 
Ruined nios(ju<' and 



iird nl Salliad 




i>4- Bosra (page 



THESE letters, wtitlcn sonic years 
ago, descube that " first line, care- 
less laptuuV the opening of the East to 
ryes that had never left Europe Since 
then this East has become a pait of the 
very texture of Miss Stark's life, and 
readers familiar with her later journeys 
in Persia and Southern Arabia will find 
a special fascination in these accounts 
of liist impressions of Asui and her 
immediate realization that among 
these people she is at home. Travel- 
ling to Brumaiia bv way of Brindisi 
ancl Rhodes, she settled clown to play 
a lively part in the life of the local 
community and learning not only to 
speak but to tkink in colloquial arabic, 
Thence she visited Damascus, staying 
in a native household and suffering 
there with humour and patience both 
illness and extreme discomfort Later 
she set out again fiom Brurnana accom- 
panied by a friend and the guide, 
Nnjm, his small nephew arid three 
donkeys (and against the advice of all 
wise men) to travel thiough the wild 
J/bfl Druse country to Transjordania 
and on to Jerusalem. On this journey 
she first tasted the dangers, the charm 
ancl the freedom of the desert and its 
people. I Icr adventures, her friend- 
ships and her sudden chance encounters 
arc described with vitality, penetration 
ancl humour which have given her a 
rare distinction among writers of prose 
ancl which now prove her brilliance 
as a letter writer.